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  • The C.C.E.I. Prize:Setting Standards for Spanish Children's Literature
  • M. Louise Salstad (bio)

The Comisión Católica Española de la Infancia Prize (the C.C.E.I.) is not only one of the oldest Spanish prizes for children's and adolescent literature, but it is also, of these prizes, "the most dependable one," awarded every year without interruption since its inauguration (Cendan 212).1 Some consider it the most prestigious of the Spanish prizes in children's literature (Anuncio 195). The purpose of this essay is to assess the shared characteristics of C.C.E.I. prize-winning narrative fiction and to evaluate the cultural values conveyed to children through these books. How those values have been articulated to children has changed in the course of the last forty years; the changes reflect those in the larger culture of Spain and of Europe in general. C.C.E.I. winners can be said to have helped shape the cultural values evident in Spanish children's literature as a whole during this period and to have been shaped in their turn by the values of the broader cultural environment.

Background and Description of the Prize

The prize was established in 1962 by the body whose name it bears, the Comisión Católica Española de la Infancia, the Spanish section of the Bureau International Catholique de L'Enfance, whose seat is in Geneva. The prize was a response to deficiencies the members perceived in children's reading (Comisión, 25 años 5). Unlike other prizes, the C.C.E.I. is awarded to the publisher because when it was established, the market offered very few books for children by Spanish authors, not for lack of deserving manuscripts but because of the financial risk (Comisión, 25 años 6). The prize consists of a medal for the publisher and honorary diplomas for the author and, if pertinent, the illustrator (Cendán 267-68). According to Maria Caparrós, the absence of monetary reward does not deter the most prestigious publishing houses from competing for the prize year after year (10).2 The prize-winning book, which must have been published in the immediately preceding year, must be written in Castilian and be the original work of "Spanish or Spanish-speaking authors" (Comisión, Premio). In fact, all prize winners until now have been the creations of Spanish writers.3

The five-member jury that awards the prize is composed of "specialists in knowledge of the child and everything related to reading: librarians, professors of children's literature, bookstore owners, critics, parents, and members of the C.C.E.I.'s Secretariat of the Press and Children's Literature" (Comisión, 25 años 7). Among the jury members listed in the Comisión's twenty-five year retrospective are authors who have themselves won the C.C.E.I. The lists indicate a general effort to maintain a balance both between continuity and new perspectives and between men and women members of the jury (Comisión, 25 años 21-22).

The spectrum of acceptable genres or subject matter is ample, although adaptations and didactic or documentary works are supposedly excluded (Comisión, Premio).4 Referring to the prize winners of 1962-1986, the Comisión observes, "Humor, nonsense, poetry, the novel of science fiction, problems of the handicapped, biography, the picture book, etc., have had their place in this prize which has known how to discover what is new, what is possible, what is awaited by society" (Comisión, 25 años 8).5 The statement evinces the organization's belief in the considerable influence of their prize on the development of children's literature in Spain, a belief with which I concur.

Role of the Carta del libro infantil

A document created by the the equivalent of the Comisión de Prensa y Literatura Infantil of the parent organization BICE and published in Spain in 1969 with the title Carta del libro infantil declares, "This letter...will serve as basis for the projects and annual selections carried out by this organization, on both the national and international levels" (Cendán 331...


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