The 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate is…. Korean artist, illustrator, animator and beloved children’s book author Baek Heena!
Writing about Baek Heena and her work, ALMA jury members Elina Druker and Maria Lassén-Seger describe her as “an artist who is renewing the picture book medium through the bold and uncompromising development of new techniques and artistic solutions that inject elements from handcraft and animation into her books in new and exciting ways. Baek’s feeling for materials, spatiality, physical form, and gesture is impressive and innovative. Her intricately composed picture books invite multiple readings and close contemplation of their minutely constructed visual worlds. Yet their skillful execution never stands in the way of the story. Baek’s enchanting picture book worlds engage, amuse, amaze, and move us. The child’s perspective runs through them all, as does an unshakeable belief in the power of play and imagination in our lives. From the pages of her picture books a chorus of voices invite us to step into their world and find new ways to see, think, and feel.”
Baek Heena was born in 1971 in Seoul. She has a background in film animation and began creating picture books after a career in advertising and multimedia for children. Her unique visual style owes a lot to stop-motion animation techniques, with painstakingly created handmade miniature figurines and landscapes. Baek has won multiple awards for her work, both in South Korea and internationally.
She has published thirteen picture books which have been translated into several languages. One of her most successful books, Cloud Bread, was published in English in 2011.
Bibliography and translations
According to ALMA, her full bibliography is as follows:
I am a dog [Na-neun ghe-dah], Bear Books, 2019
A tale of a dog who misses his mother and siblings, but comes to realize that he has a new place in a loving household and a new job as its caretaker. For this book, Baek hand-crafted some fifty clay dogs, each with minute differences in posture and facial expression.
The strange visitor [Ee-sang-hahn son-nim]
Bear Books, 2018
Magic Candies [Al-sa-taang]
Bear Books, 2017
The Strange Mum [Ee-sang-han Eomma]
Bear Books, 2016
The Blowfly in my Dream [Gghum-eh-seo maat-bon ddong-pa-ri]
Bear Books, 2014
The Bath Fairy [Jang-su-taang seon-nyeo-nim]
Bear Books, 2012
Little Chick Pee-yaki’s Mum [Pi-ya-ghi Eomma]
In French translation as Chat chelou (Arles, 2017)
Drawn in charcoal and ink, this crazy, quirky tale paints a portrait of parenthood that is both candid and comedic.
Last Night [Uh-je-jo-nyeok]
Moon Sherbet [Dal Sha-bet]
In Polish as Ksiezycowy sorbet (Wydawnictwo Kwiaty Orientu, 2018)
The Pink Rope [Boon-hong-jul]
In French as Le fil rose, ranslated by Yeong-Hee Lim, adapted by Michèle Moreau (Didier Jeunesse, 2011)
The Boy Who Looked for the North Wind [Buk-poong-ul chaja-gahn so-nyeon]
The Red Bean Granny and the Tiger [Pat-juk hal-mum-ghwa ho-rang-ee]
Cloud Bread [Gu-reum-bbang]
In English as Cloud Bread (Hansol, 2011), German as Wolkenbrot, French as Les petits pains au nuage, and in Swedish as Molnbullar
Baek Heena’s debut book Cloud Bread invites readers into a world of ‘what if?’ The story takes place on a rainy weekday morning when two kittens find a little cloud and take it home. From the cloud, their mother bakes magical bread that gives them the ability to fly. The book has inspired a television series, a musical and a toy franchise.
There’s also an interview with Baek Heena on the ALMA website. When asked how she chooses which medium to use for her picture books, Heena said, “I search for the best way to tell the story, to make it more interesting. For example, ‘The Chick’s Mama’ is a story about a street cat who happened to give birth to a chick. Since she was a dirty street cat, I used chalk coal. ‘The Bath Fairy’ is a fantasy about a little girl enchanting a fairy in a very normal, routine kind of day, while taking a bath. So I decided to shoot little sculptures against the real background, the real public bath. The way I visualized was as magical as the story. I had so much fun photographing the sculptures. I believe that readers might feel the same way as I felt when I was working on the book.”
Interested publishers should check out the Bear Books rights’ guide for details of Baek Heena’s books and other Korean children’s book authors and illustrators.