Korean illustrator becomes first Asian to win prestigious Hans Christian Andersen award in 38 years

suzy lee
Suzy Lee. Image: JTBC News
  • South Korean illustrator Suzy Lee has won one of the world’s most prestigious awards for illustrators and writers of children’s books.
  • Lee became the first Korean to win or be nominated for a Hans Christian Andersen Award and the first Asian to win the award in 38 years.
  • Lee was among 66 candidates considered from 33 countries.
  • The 48-year-old has written and illustrated numerous children’s books, including “Wave” and “Shadow,” both of which were selected as New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s books in 2008 and 2010.

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) announced South Korean illustrator Suzy Lee as the 2022 winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award on Monday.

Lee became the first Korean to win or be nominated for the prestigious award and also the first Asian to win in 38 years – the last was Japanese illustrator Mitsumasa Anno in 1984.

“I am honored and humbled by just being nominated with other great candidates, all of whom I respect,” Lee told JTBC News reporters on Tuesday. “I’m also grateful because this feels like a sign that Korean children’s literature is being recognized around the world.”

The 48-year-old was chosen from a shortlist that included Beatrice Alemagna from Italy, Ryoji Arai from Japan, Iwona Chmielewska from Poland, Gusti from Argentina and Sydney Smith from Canada. She was selected out of a total of 66 candidates from 33 countries who were considered for this year’s award.

Lee has previously received recognition for several of her works, including “Wave,” which was selected as the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book in 2009, and “Shadow,” which was selected in 2010. Her latest work, “Summer,” won the Bologna Ragazzi Award last month.

The award ceremony is expected to take place sometime in September during IBBY’s annual conference in Malaysia this year.

The prestigious award was founded in 1956 and named after Hans Christian Andersen, a 19th-century Danish author who was well known for his children’s fairy tales such as “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Princess and the Pea.”

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