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And the winner is... These are the five contenders for the 2020 Thea Beckman Prize

From the Ice Age to the years after the Second World War - the range of stories that stand a chance of winning the Thea Beckman Prize awarded by the Archeon today is wide. The five contenders on what Thea Beckman's work and nomination for the prize mean to them.

Linda Dielemans, Shadow of the lion

The contender
'Shadow of the lion is about a girl living in the Ice Age, some 28,000 years ago. Armed with nothing but her spear, Joeni travels across the endless plains, where the wind always blows and where mammoths, reindeer herds and cave lions live. Outcast by her tribe, she goes in search of the truth behind her dreams, which foretell what is to come but sometimes have disastrous consequences...'

The nomination
'It is very special to be nominated for this award. There are very few children's books set in prehistoric times, and to be chosen for the shortlist by the jury feels like an appreciation not only for me as an author, but also for the period in which the book is set. After all, prehistory should get a bit more attention!'

The favourite book
'I was definitely a fan of Thea Beckman's books. The adventure and escape to another time did appeal to me immensely. My big favourite was The golden fleece of Thule, the final volume in the Children of Mother Earth-trilogy. 'I wanted nothing more than to be protagonist Elvira, who arrives in a new country and slowly wins the respect of the natives.'

Linda Dielemans ©Annelien Nijland

The character
'I didn't necessarily read Beckman's books for her strong, female characters; I just enjoyed the adventure, and found Crusade in jeans, which has a boy as its protagonist, just as nicely. But Elvira, from The golden fleece of Thule so, at least, has always stayed with me.'

The inspiration
'That will certainly be the case, though not very consciously. When I was just starting to write (I was about 12 at the time), I often processed books that had made a big impression on me, but as far as I can find, I have never written a story in which I see any of Beckman's books reflected. This is the case, for example, with The letter for the kingBy Tonke Dragt or, a little later, Dune by Frank Herbert. Perhaps the inspiration mainly consists of the idea that books like Beckman wrote - delicious thick pills that suck you into another time - are allowed to exist and that there will always be children who like to read such books.'

Shadow of the lion, Leopold, € 17,99. Illustrations also by Linda Dielemans.

Kathleen Vereecken, Everything will be fine, always

The contender
'Everything will be fine, always is about Alice, middle child of five, in an Irish family. When she is 11, World War I breaks out. Slowly, she sees her so familiar family disintegrating, and finds herself on the run with her younger brother and sister, with the only hold on her mother's doubtful promise: that all will be well, always.'

The nomination
'This is a very nice recognition. The Thea Beckman Prize is a maverick in the awards landscape, in a good way. It's nice that the spotlight is focused so emphatically on historical children's and youth books.'

The favourite book
'I was a fan of Thea Beckman. My favourite was Give me space!, the first part of her trilogy about the Hundred Years' War. 'The story of the free-spirited Bruges Marije, who runs away from home, fleeing an unwanted marriage, to start a new life in France as a trouvère, captured my imagination immensely.'

Kathleen Vereecken

The character
'So it goes without saying that Marije Wartelsdochter - or Marie-Claire as she later came to call herself - was my favourite character.'

The inspiration
'It is mostly the real events that inspire me, the non-fiction, the pure history. Beckman thus knitted her own story. Someone else's story may thrill me, but it doesn't inspire me when writing my own. In that, I want to be able to bend pure history to my will, create a world and tell about how it could have been.'

Everything will be fine, always, Lannoo, € 18,99. Illustrations by Charlotte Peys.

Inez van Loon, Mathilde, I'm coming to get you

The contender
'Mathilde, I'm coming to get you is based on the life of my grandmother Mathilde. She had to perform heavy child labour at a brickyard in the Rupel region in 1900. There were other brickyards in the Netherlands where things were similar. It seems like many people today don't realise what life was like here not so long ago!'

The nomination
'As a big fan of Thea Beckman, it is of course a huge honour to be nominated for 'her' prize. It is extra special because the book is about the life of my grandmother Mathilde. I see it as a tribute to her and all victims of child labour past and present, all over the world.'

The favourite book
'I used to devour all her books and later read them (almost) all to my sons and husband - yes, those too. The first thing he asked upon returning home was, "You haven't read to them yet, have you?" I most love her books that deal with life on a ship (maybe because I love sailing myself?), sailing the world's seas and seeing foreign lands, such as Free-spirited. I reread it again the other day and found the story as vivid and sparkling as the first time.'

Inez van Loon ©Pieter Magielsen

The character
'I have now written six historical books that I think of as a 'kind of series': that's why each cover features a girl! Each story centres on a tough girl with an important supporting role for a boy. What all these girls (from different times and countries) have in common is that they don't throw in the towel, but take matters into their own hands.'

The inspiration
'Beckman's work is an inspiration to me because she is a real storyteller. I try to emulate this too, and like Beckman, I like stories in which a lot happens. I also find it a challenge every time to tell a difficult subject like child labour in a way that appeals to children of today. That is why Mathilde and I try to avoid artificial sentences. Most children I talk to don't like that and quickly put a book aside. I prefer children of this age to be fascinated to read, that's where it starts... The literary sentences will come!'

Mathilde, I'm coming to get you, Clavis, € 15,95

Martine Letterie, Forbidden to fly

The contender
'Forbidden to fly is a book for young children about World War II. Fietje Fiedel grows up in a large family, during that period. The Fiedeltjes keep pigeons, and I tell the book partly through Fietje's eyes and partly through the eyes of her pigeon Charlie and his father Jules. After all, pigeons played a special role in the Second World War.'

The nomination
'This nomination is an important appreciation. I am very happy that the book has been seen.'

The favourite book
'I read all of Beckman's books. Hasse Simonsdochter was - and is - my favourite. Not only because of the fact that it takes place in my area, but also because the book is well put together.'

Martine Letterie and Rick de Haas ©Sake Elzinga

The character
'Hasse is also my favourite protagonist. Not in every book are Beckman's independent women historically equally believable, but Hasse is.'

The inspiration
'Beckman has shown that the historical children's book is a genre in its own right and to be taken seriously, and that children like to read it.'

Forbidden to fly, Leopold, € 16,99. Illustrations by Rick de Haas.

Dolf Verroen, No one sees it

The contender
'My story is about a boy in 1947 who likes boys more than girls. The story casually gives an insight into the life and morals of those years.'

 The nomination
'Yes, I would love to win this prize, because I was so fond of Thea. She was a wonderful woman, full of contradictions, but with an awfully big heart.'

Dolf Verroen and Charlotte Dematons ©Martijn van de Griendt

The favourite book
'Of course I read Thea's work, but to be honest, I liked a different kind of books more. I was excited by the political choices in her stories. Her Prodigies was my preference. I was writing reviews at the time and unlike others, I thought it was one of her best, most personal books. I remember that Thea felt very understood by my review.

No one sees it, Leopold, € 14,99. Illustrations by Charlotte Dematons.

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A Quattro Mani

Photographer Marc Brester and journalist Vivian de Gier can read and write with each other - literally. As partners in crime, they travel the world for various media, for reviews of the finest literature and personal interviews with the writers who matter. Ahead of the troops and beyond the delusion of the day.View Author posts

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