Flavia Z. Drago has won the 2021 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. She won for her book Gustavo the Shy Ghost (Walker Books) about a little ghost who despite being so shy he is invisible to the other monsters, eventually finds a way to make friends.
Established in 2016, the Klaus Flugge Prize was founded to honour publisher Klaus Flugge, a supremely influential figure in picture books. Flugge set up Andersen Press in 1976 and has discovered and nurtured many of today’s most distinguished illustrators including David McKee, Tony Ross, Satoshi Kitamura, Ruth Brown and Susan Varley.
The Klaus Flugge Prize judges loved the balance of fun and fright in Gustavo, The Shy Ghost, and admired Flavia’s superb control of pace and the composition of her illustrations. Judge and winner of the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize, Eva Eland says: “There is so much to admire and enjoy in Flavia’s book…She delivers a powerful and universal story, whilst maintaining a light-heartedness and a playful touch that will speak to many little children.”
On receiving the prize, Flavia Z. Drago said, “I feel incredibly happy and honoured to have won this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize! Getting my first picture book published was a dream that started about ten years ago. The journey was filled with ups and downs, rejection, uncertainty, and constant learning. I am so grateful to my lovely team in Walker Books for giving me the opportunity to make a story about shyness and monsters, and for having allowed me to share a glimpse of Mexico and its most beautiful celebration (The Day of the Dead) with the rest of the world. Making picture books is a privilege and joy, and I hope that I will be able to keep doing this for many years to come.”
Alongside Eva Eland, the judges are Posy Simmonds writer and illustrator, Darryl Clifton, Illustration Programme Director at Camberwell College of Arts; Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop; and Mat Tobin of Oxford Brookes University. Julia Eccleshare, director of the Children’s Programme at the Hay Festival, is Chair of the Judges.
Judge, Mat Tobin, interviewed Flavia earlier this month and their conversation provides a lovely insight into the inspiration for the book, the illustrative technique and Flavia’s plans for the future.
This year’s shortlist was, I thought, particularly strong and the wide range of subjects and the varied styles are a wonderful indication of the strength and depth of picturebooks at the moment. My own copy of Gustavo will now have pride of place on my bookshelves. By happy coincidence the announcement of the Klaus Flugge Prize winner comes a week after the publication of the report by the Centre of Literacy for Primary Education on the Power of Pictures project as part of children’s learning. The findings revealed that picture books are an important genre of children’s literature and not just a step on the route to chapter books. The Klaus Flugge Prize both celebrates and promotes the very best of new and exciting illustrators and their books. Definitely a cause for celebration!
More information about the award, this year’s shortlisted titles and previous winners is available on the official website.