The Nordic bookworm is a book banana!

A reading book banana and its illustrator, Cato Thau-Jensen

The winner of Nordic Culture Point’s open call to create an imaginary bookworm character for children up to the age of 12 is Cato Thau-Jensen from Denmark. The finalists were evaluated by a jury consisting of experts and two groups of children.

Thau-Jensen’s winning Book Banana was the children’s favourite, with the experts calling it a refreshing and funny character. The character was judged to work well as a flexible guide in library environments, encouraging creativity and unconventional innovation.

The illustrator himself, who is a renowned illustrator of children’s books at home in Denmark, reveals that the expression “go bananas” is what tickled his own imagination as the bookworm character began to take shape.

“What does it mean to get really excited and go crazy about books? Although bananas certainly aren’t grown in the Nordic countries, everyone knows what they look like and how they taste. They’re enjoyable and packed with energy,” says Cato Thau-Jensen.

The competition was organised as part of Nordic Culture Point’s project to promote reading, The Nordic Bookworm. The project showcases Nordic children’s literature across language boundaries and the character will be the face of these efforts.

Six finalists recognised

The runner-up entry “Kosmos” by Malin Rosenqvist from Sweden was also well-liked among the children. The jury agreed, saying that the dog-like character is a solid and well-thought-out proposal with a sympathetic and versatile character that works for all ages.

In joint third place were Elisabet Ericson (Sweden), Tanja Is (Finland), Tuukka Rantala (Finland), and Anna Sailamaa (Finland). All the finalists’ entries will be exhibited at the Nordic Culture Point library in Helsinki in February.

The winner and runner-up will receive EUR 4,000 and EUR 2,000 respectively, with the other four finalists each receiving EUR 1,000.

More than 80 entries

A total of 81 entries from across the Nordic Region, including entries from Åland and the Faroe Islands, met the competition criteria of the open call that took place in September and October. Many entries were submitted by new illustrators and those studying in the field of illustration, which Annika Bergvik-Forsander, senior advisor and administrator of the open call at Nordic Culture Point, was especially pleased about.

“Both technically and in terms of expression, there was an impressively diverse range of entries. Sadly, only six of these many fine and well-thought-out proposals could make it to the final round,” says Bergvik-Forsander.

As a visual artist herself, she sees huge potential for the new Nordic bookworm character.

“A banana in combination with books is quite unexpected. This ingenious character offers huge creative potential for future use, digitally and physically,” she says.