Brussels, June 17, 2009 ― The 2009 Québec/Wallonia-Brussels youth literature prizes have been awarded to Quebecer Dominique Demers for her novel L’Élu : la grande quête de Jacob Jobin, published by Québec Amérique, and Belgium’s Jean-Marie Defossez for Envol pour le paradis, published by Bayard Jeunesse. The Québec and Belgian authors will be officially presented with their prizes at the Salon du livre de Montréal (Montréal book fair) in November 2009 and the Foire du livre de Bruxelles (Brussels book fair) in March 2010. This year’s awards were reserved for authors of novels for young readers aged 12 to 15.
The recipients were chosen by an international jury of professionals in the fields of literature and publishing in Québec and Wallonia-Brussels.
For the Québec award, the members of the jury were won over by L’Élu : la grande quête de Jacob Jobin, a blend of classic and contemporary storytelling. They highlighted Dominique Demers’s skill in crafting a novel that combines fairy tale with fantasy. Using her pen like a magic wand, Demers has created a compelling young protagonist whose rite-of-passage adventure conjures up the tales we enjoyed as children, with a decidedly 21st-century, fantasy-novel twist and a focus on the concerns of contemporary teens. The first in a series, the 392-page novel is bound to thrill young readers and leave them eager for the next volume.
For the Wallonia-Brussels prize, the jury members picked Jean-Marie Defossez’s Envol pour le paradis, which tells the story of 14-year-old Arthur, who has a passion for airplanes. The novel takes place during the Second World War. Swept up in the turmoil of the time, Arthur is forcibly enrolled in a Hitler Youth camp and has to say good-bye to his childhood dreams. The European context of the novel adds interest for young Québec readers, who can draw parallels between Nazi indoctrination and the way that today’s youngsters can be recruited and used (contemporary materialism, disadvantaged social contexts, street gangs, etc.). Defossez’s novel is an opportunity for lively debate on issues such as the importance of education and the proper use of freedom.
The Québec/Wallonia-Brussels youth literature prizes are awarded every two years to authors and illustrators in Québec and the French Community of Belgium (Wallonia-Brussels). Under a cooperation agreement between the two governments, the prizes come with €2,600 (CAN$3,500) in cash for the winning authors or illustrators and a €3,900 (CAN$6,000) grant for their publishers, to help promote and market the chosen books. The prizes are aimed at encouraging the development, production and distribution youth literature in French and stimulating trade between Québec and Wallonia-Brussels.