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Manga About A British Explorer Wins the German Children’s Literature Award for Nonfiction!

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The Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German Youth Literature Prize) is awarded each year as part of the festivities surrounding the Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair). Celebrating its 60th year, it is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

This year, the award for nonfiction was awarded to Kristina Gehrmann, for the first volume in a graphic novel trilogy chronicling the tragic history of “Franklin’s lost expedition“. (You can order the book directly from the publisher, either in paper or ebook formats. All three volumes are available.)

12th of May 1848: The HMS Enterprise and Investigator… …break into the Arctic, where their commander, James Clark Ross, searches for Franklin’s lost expedition.

Here is the jury’s citation, translated by Google:

In the spring of 1845 broke under the command of Sir John Franklin on two ships from England to find the sea route between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. This expedition to discover the Northwest Passage ended tragically. 129 participants died in the pack ice.
Kristina Gehrmann has analyzed many original sources for her three-volume graphic novel. The author creates a vivid panorama of the life on board, in which all layers from the commander to the ship boys are presented. The daily routine of the teams is described in detail, which is characterized by heavy physical work, but also offers variety by means of music, theater performances and a ship’s library. The difficulties of this expedition are already indicated in this first volume, when illnesses occur and a death is to be lamented. Likewise, the captains’ worries about the outcome of the company are discussed. The detailed and realistic black and white illustrations are based on the manga style. The pronounced expression of the figures provides an insight into the inner life of the crew.
In her first graphic novel Kristina Gehrmann manages a compelling combination of factual information and dense narrative. Although the outcome of the expedition is known, the suspense of the plot is maintained and is also reflected in the following two volumes.

Winners receive a prize of 10,000 Euros, and a statue based on Michael Ende’s Momo, which won the award in 1973. (Ende is best known to English readers as the author of The Neverending Story.)

Kristina Gehrmann (left), winner of the Sachbuch section with State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek
© Anna Meuer / AKJ, free of charge in connection with the German Youth Literary Prize

Gehrmann succeeded over five other non-fiction titles, all of which were illustrated, and one of which was also a graphic novel (published by Abrams in the US). Additionally, Jillian & Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer was nominated in the young adult section.

Numerous comics titles have been nominated and honored through the years, and David Wiesner, who won the picture book category last year for Mr. Wuffles(a graphic novel in picture book form), illustrated this year’s poster.

Comics are commonplace in Germany, thanks to the weekly Micky Maus Magazin and the many popular Franco-Belgian comics. The local graphic novel market is slowly growing, encouraged by publishers importing more literate work from the US (and exporting!), fans devouring manga, and art schools offering instruction. The Goethe Institute offers an excellent web portal on German comics, in English!


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