Aevar Thor Benediktsson at Hay Festival Aarhus 39

Ævar Þór Benediktsson

The Icelandic writer Ævar Thór Benediktsson has been selected to be a part of an international anthology for children and young adults in connection with the International Children’s Literature Hay Festival, held in Aarhus, Denmark, in October 2017. The anthology will be published in May this year at the Hay Festival in Wales.

Hay Festival has unveiled the Aarhus 39 selection – a group of 39 children’s and young adult writers from all over Europe, aged 40 and under, who will take part in an ambitious new project commissioned by European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017, comprising a new festival and two new anthologies.

Writers were selected by a jury of three acclaimed contemporary children’s authors – Kim Fupz Aakeson (Denmark), Ana Cristina Herreros (Spain) and Matt Haig (UK) – with eligibility encompassing authors of books for ages 8+ and teenagers.

Each author has been commissioned to write an original story to the theme of ‘Journey’, with two anthologies of the works edited by Daniel Hahn to be published in English by Alma Books and in Danish by Gyldendal later this year.
The anthologies will feature drawings from some of the world’s leading illustrators, including Barroux, Britta Teckentrup, Dave McKean, Ella Okstad, Helen Stephens, Peter Bailey, Satoshi Kitamura, Anke Kuhl, Hanne Kvist, Isol, Joelle Jolivet, Jörg Mühle, Kitty Crowther, Mårdøn Smet, Ole Könnecke, Rotraut Susanne Berner, Sandrine Kao, Serge Bloch, Søren Jessen, Yvonne Kuschel, Adam Stower, Axel Scheffler, Benji Davies, Chris Riddell, Ian Beck, Joel Stewart, Neal Layton, Ross Collins, Tony Ross, Anna Höglund, Barbara Nascimbeni, Cato Thau-Jensen, Charlotte Pardi, Kamila Slocinska, Lilian Brøgger, Moni Port, and Philip Waechter.

The two English language anthologies – Quest: Stories of journeys from around Europe from the Aarhus 39 (for children age 8+) and Odyssey: Stories of journeys from around Europe from the Aarhus 39 (for young adults) – will be launched on Friday 26 May at Hay Festival in Wales.

Íslenska translation unavailable for festival-aarhus39.jpg.

The project will culminate at this year’s inaugural International Children’s Literature Hay Festival in Aarhus, 25 – 29 October. Commissioned by European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017, and programmed by Hay Festival, it will be a globally recognised children’s literature festival, engaging young people across Europe in a fresh exchange of ideas and conversations.

The 39 writers will be invited to spend four days in Aarhus visiting schools and take part in the festival programme alongside the very best of Europe’s writers for young people.

The list was announced at the London Book Fair in a special event featuring two of the Aarhus 39 writers, Katherine Rundell and Sarah Crossan, plus Hay Festival children’s director, Julia Eccleshare, and editor of the upcoming Aarhus 39 anthologies, Daniel Hahn. The group discussed the art of writing for children, and how reading stories of lives lived in other countries can influence a new generation with understanding and empathy.
Cristina Fuentes La Roche, International Director at Hay Festival, said:

“Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault, JK Rowling, Judith Kerr… Europe is home to some of the best writers for young people of all time. In a world that feels increasingly divided, these borderless shared stories unite us in empathy – encouraging us to experience lives lived in other countries and cultures in a way that nothing else can. Aarhus 39 is the next step in this journey – these emerging writers showcase the strength of children’s and YA literature today and we are thrilled to offer a new global platform for sharing their work.”

Rachel Matthews, CEO of Aarhus 2017 European Capital of Culture, said:

“Our European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017 is about building bonds across the entire European region. By engaging young emerging writers from all over Europe and inviting them to Aarhus in October, we will celebrate the diversity in European children’s and YA literature. We are looking forward to sharing these new stories with Danish children and engaging them in discussions about a world of journeys. Aarhus 2017 is proud to join forces with Hay Festival on this European endeavor.”

The Aarhus 39 project builds on three similar festival campaigns Hay Festival has run with the UNESCO World Cities of Literature in Bogotá, Beirut and Port Harcourt, and the Mexico 20 project for The London Book Fair’s UK–Mexico Market Focus 2015. Each of these projects has generated new festivals, new publications and long-tail campaigns that are still supporting a new generation of writers from Latin America (Bogotá 39), the Arab diaspora (Beirut 39) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Africa 39).


Ævar Thor  (b.1984) is a writer and actor. He is best know in Iceland for his work as Ævar the scientist (on TV, radio and in book-form) and for his bestselling “Your Very Own”-series of books, where the reader takes an active role in shaping the story-line.

Ævar has won several awards for his work, including the Icelandic Children’s Cgoice Book Awards, The Bookseller’s Awards, four Edda-awards (the Icelandic TV and Film Awards) for his TV-show, as well as a special award by the Ministry of Culture and Education, in recognition of his contribution to the Icelandic language.

He was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize for Children and YA Books 2016 (The Robot Attack) and was finalist and first International Selection of the DeBary Outstanding Children’s Book Awards 2016 (Dinosaurs in Reykjavik).
In 2015, 2016 and 2017 Ævar organizes an annual nation-wide reading challenge for children in Iceland between the ages of 5-13. At the end of each challenge five participants were randomly selected and as a reward got to be characters in the book series “The Young Adventures of Ævar the Scientist”. Over 177 thousand books were read in the three challenges.

Ævar Thor Benediktsson’s website


  1. 1. Ævar Þór Benediktsson – Iceland
  2. 2. Alaine Agirre – Spain
  3. 3. Aline Sax – Belgium
  4. 4. Ana Pessoa – Portugal
  5. 5. Andri Antoniou – Cyprus
  6. 6. Anna Woltz – Netherlands
  7. 7. Annelise Heurtier – France
  8. 8. Annette Münch – Norway
  9. 9. B. R. Collins – UK
  10. 10. Cathy Clement – Luxembourg
  11. 21. Katherine Rundell – UK
  12. 22. Katherine Woodfine – UK
  13. 23. Laura Dockrill – UK
  14. 24. Laura Gallego – Spain
  15. 25. Ludovic Flamant – Belgium
  16. 26. Maria Parr – Norway
  17. 27. Maria Turtschaninoff – Finland
  18. 28. Michaela Holzinger – Austria
  19. 29. Nataly Elisabeth Savina – Latvia
  20. 30. Nina Elisabeth Grøntvedt – Norway
  21. 11.Cornelia Travnicek – Austria
  22. 12. David Machado – Portugal
  23. 13. Dy Plambeck – Denmark
  24. 14. Elisabeth Steinkellner – Austria
  25. 15. Endre Lund Eriksen – Norway
  26. 16. Finn-Ole Heinrich – Germany
  27. 17. Frida Nilsson – Sweden
  28. 18. Gideon Samson – Netherlands
  29. 19. Inna Manakhova – Russia
  30. 20. Jana Šrámková – Czech Republic
  31. 31. Peder Frederik Jensen – Denmark
  32. 32. Salla Simukka – Finland
  33. 33. Sandrine Kao – France
  34. 34. Sanne Munk Jensen – Denmark
  35. 35. Sarah Crossan – Ireland/UK
  36. 36. Sarah Engell – Denmark
  37. 37. Stefan Bachmann – Switzerland
  38. 38. Stefanie de Velasco – Germany
  39. 39. Victor Dixen – France

Hay Festival brings readers and writers together in conversation in sustainable events around the world – sharing stories and ideas to inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be. This year marks the festival’s 30th anniversary; dreamt up around a kitchen table in Hay-on-Wye in 1987, the unique marriage of exacting conversations and entertainment for all ages has travelled to editions in 30 locations, from the historic town of Cartagena to the heart of cities in Peru, Mexico, Spain and Denmark.

Hay Festival Wales takes place Thursday 25 May – Sunday 4 June 2017.

International Children’s Literature Hay Festival – Aarhus 39 takes place on 25 – 29 October with the support of Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.