Elena Odriozola wins the Grand Prize at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.


Basque illustrator Elena Odriozola has won the Grand Prix at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava in Slovakia. Odriozola won the award for her illustrations in ´Sentimientos encontrados´ (by Gustavo Puerta Leisse, Ediciones Modernas El Embudo, 2019). It is the first time a Basque illustrator has received this award.

The Grand Prix is one of the oldest and most prestigious prizes for illustrated children´s books and is awarded every two years at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB). The Bratislava Biennial is a prestigious international exhibition of children´s and young people´s book illustrations organised by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, the Slovak Committee for UNESCO and the International House of Art for Children.

Every two years, the biennial awards prizes to the best illustrators from around the world. The Biennial of Illustration Bratislava Awards for children´s and young people´s books are decided by an international jury of experts. Sitting on this year´s jury was: Brenda Dales (USA); Victoria Fomina (Russia); Renáta Fučíková (Czech Republic); Orna Granot, (Israel); Manuela Vladić Maštruko (Croatia); Ľuboslav Paľo (Slovakia); Emese Révész, (Hungary); Javier Zabala, (Spain); Mingzhou Zhang, (China, president of the International Board on Books for Young People - IBBY).

´Mixed feelings / Etxean barrena´

´Sentimientos encontrados ´(2019), created by Gustavo Puerta Leisse and Elena Odriozola, was the first book published by the recently launched publishing house Ediciones Modernas el Embudo. Denonartean immediately published it in Basque under the title ´Etxean barrena´, translated by Juan Kruz Igerabide. The two authors spent ten years crafting their work around seven characters, creating an illustrated reflection that causes readers to pause and think about what they are feeling. They used classic philosophical texts to relate ordinary family events through images.

The Bratislava Biennial jury highlighted the experimental nature of the book, which allows for different types of reading. The jury also emphasised the use of illustration to create different narrative threads. Readers witness the birth of a baby, the death of an old woman, and the nuances and images of everyday life. Each vignette gives readers the opportunity to project their own feelings and reflections onto the illustration.

The book has also received other honours: in 2020 it was mentioned in the ´White Ravens´ catalogue published by the International Youth Library in Munich, and in its list of Best Books of 2020, the IBBY (Venezuela Book Bank) highlighted it as an Innovative Concept.

From one award to another

Elena Odriozola was born in Donostia/San Sebastián in 1967. She has illustrated over 100 books and has received many awards and mentions in recent years: the Euskadi Prize on two occasions (2009, 2013), the Spanish National Illustration Award in 2015 and that same year, the Golden Apple Award at the Bratislava Biennial. On more than one occasion she has been the Spanish candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and the Astrid Lindren Memorial Award. In 2019 she founded the publishing house Ediciones Modernas El Embudo, together with Gustavo Puerta and Marta Ansón, to bring out her most playful and personal works.

Basque representation in Bratislava

In total, the following prizes are awarded every two years at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava: GRAND PRIX ($3,000), 5 GOLDEN APPLES (each carries a prize of $1,500) and 5 BRONZE PLAQUES (each carries a prize of $1,000). In recent years, the Basque illustration sector has been widely represented at the biennial but Basque illustrators have also been awarded prizes in recent editions.

Odriozola herself received the Golden Apple at the 2015 Biennial for her work on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Nordika Libros, 2013). In 1985 Asun Balzola received the Golden Apple for her illustrations in ´Txitoen istorioa´ (Erein, 1998), written by Bernardo Atxaga. In 2013 Iraia Okina was awarded a Bratislava Biennial Plaque for her book ´Ilargia esnatu da´ (Elkar, 2012). In the 2011 edition, one of the bronze plaques went to Iban Barrenetxea for his book ´Bombástica Naturalis´ (A Buen Buen Paso, 2012).

The OEPLI (Spanish Organization for Children and Young People´s Literature) is the Spanish committee of the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People). Therefore, every two years it has the opportunity to present the work of 15 illustrators at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava. Galtzagorri Elkartea is one of the associations belonging to the OEPLI and guarantees the presence of Basque illustrators in the selection, backed by an agreement signed with the Etxepare Basque Institute. Sixty-six illustrators from Spain submitted their candidacy for this year´s biennial and 15 were chosen. In addition to Grand Prix winner Elena Odriozola, were three Basque illustrators with their latest works:

Iban Barrenetxea: ´Autografía´ (Nordica).

Maite Gurrutxaga: ´Leo sabanako errege/Leo the King of Savannah´ (Elkar).

Leire Salaberria: ´Heidi´ (Ediciones del Castillo)

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