Playful story of a friendship under pressure wins inaugural Klaus Flugge Prize

Nicholas John Frith has won the inaugural Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. He won for his book Hector and Hummingbird (Alison Green Books), about a spectacled bear and his noisy best friend.

‘The shortlist featured six skilful and talented illustrators but Hector and Hummingbird is something very special’ said Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, judge for this new prize, ‘We were particularly impressed with the way Nicholas John Frith creates the characters of Hector and Hummingbird through his illustrations, and the relationship between them is completely convincing. It’s certainly a very stylish book to look at, but the characterisation won it for us. Children will love these two heroes, it’s a book with heart!’

Frith explains he found inspiration for the characters close to home: ‘Hector, a bear who appreciates peace and quiet, is based on my wife, who is distinctly Hector-like when she comes home after a busy day at work and has to cope with me, desperate to chat à la Hummingbird after a day alone in my home studio!’ He thanked his wife, Amy, in his acceptance speech for ‘her patience, support and understanding’, adding ‘I’m not an easy man to live with whilst I’m working on a book- without you I wouldn’t be doing this!’

He also named mid-century illustrators Dahlov Ipcar and Roger Duvoisin as important influences. Like them, Frith used a demanding technique known as preseparation, creating separate pieces of art for each colour used in the book. The result is illustration that feels both nostalgic and thoroughly contemporary.

The Klaus Flugge Prize was founded to honour publisher Klaus Flugge, a supremely influential figure in picture books, who this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of his publishing house Andersen Press. Klaus Flugge discovered and nurtured many of today's most distinguished illustrators including Chris Riddell, fellow judge Tony Ross, and David McKee, creator of Elmer the Elephant. Mark Hendle, Managing Director of Andersen Press said, ‘Over his long career, Klaus has discovered and nurtured countless talented illustrators, and it is extremely fitting that he has decided to establish a prize that recognises and celebrates exciting new talent in children's illustrated books.’

Reflecting on the prize and the winner, Tony Ross said: ‘Judging illustration is always subjective, and often tricky, especially when the overall standard is high, as it was with the first Klaus Flugge Award, so Klaus, I hope you are as happy with the winner as we are.’

The other judges were Professor Martin Salisbury Course Leader, MA Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art, and Ferelith Hordon, former chair of the CILIP Carnegie Kate Greenaway Medals and editor of Books for Keeps. Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian, children’s director of the Hay Festival and head of Public Lending Right policy and advocacy was chair of the judges.

Nicholas John Frith received his award at a ceremony in London on Tuesday 6th September 2016 and was presented with a cheque for £5,000 by Chris Riddell.