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Profile

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka is a picture book creator — she writes, designs and illustrates books for children. Vasanti hails from a potato patch in Pukekohe. Over many years, and after wiping the dirt from her fingernails, she has trained in various fields, including design and creative writing, and is now a Jack of all trades (master of some).

Over the years her work has won many awards. Her book, The Boring Book, was the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year for 2014 and won the Best Picture Book award.  The judges described it as “a remarkable book that exceeds any expectations of its genre. It exhibits the highest quality of design and its presentation is thoroughly original. The story takes delightful unexpected turns that charm afresh with each reading. Small children and older readers alike will be delighted by its subversive touches and entertained by its warmth and fun.” It also won international acclaim with its inclusion in the 2014 White Ravens Catalogue and in 2016 was named an IBBY Honour Book for the excellence of its illustrations.

Vasanti is the illustrator of Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn, which was shortlisted for the Best Picture Book award at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hill & Hole won the LIANZA Russell Clark Award the same year and was also the first children’s book to win the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards. Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015, was lauded as a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book and was simultaneously published in the UK and US. Who Stole the Rainbow?, a humorous, genre-spanning scientific mystery-thriller for children about how rainbows appear and disappear, was published in 2018. It was a finalist for the Best Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019. I am the Universe, published in 2020, won the 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the New Zealand Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book. It was shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2021. The judges praised its ‘wonderful illustrations’ and ‘vibrant descriptions … the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.’ I am the Universe went on to win the PANZ Book Design Awards Best Children’s Book 2021 and was a finalist in the Best Typography category. Judge Ant Sang called it ‘…a book which readers can enjoy over and over, and find something new to discover each time. Fun and imaginative throughout, the large format perfectly suits the scale of the subject. Readers can’t help but feel transported on a joyous journey from the first to last page.’ My Elephant is Blue, published in 2021, was written by Melinda Syzmanik and illustrated by Vasanti; it has been published in six countries around the world including the US.

In August 2021 Vasanti was also awarded the Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for Illustration. Vasanti lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she juggles design work, author school visits, creative work and numerous book projects.

Single Profile

Selected bibliography:

  • My Elephant is Blue, text by Melinda Syzmanik (Penguin 2021)
  • I am the Universe (Penguin 2020)
  • Who Stole The Rainbow? (Penguin 2018)
  • Stripes! No, Spots! (Penguin 2015)
  • The Boring Book (Penguin 2013) (written, illustrated and designed by Vasanti)
  • Weird Wabbit and Friends: How to Make Cool Stuff from Felt (Penguin 2010)
  • Star Boy and Friends: How to Make Cool Stuff from Socks and Gloves (Penguin 2010)
  • Hill & Hole, text by Kyle Mewburn (Penguin 2010)
  • The Bean’s Story, text by Tatiana Aslund (Scholastic 2007)
  • Ice Cream Snow, text by Janet Slater Bottin (Scholastic 2001)

Awards:

  • 2021 Vwinner of the Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for Illustration
  • 2021 PANZ Book Design Awards Best Children’s Book  and a finalist in the Best Typography category for I am the Universe
  • 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the New Zealand Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book for I am the Universe
  • 2019 Finalist in Best Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults  for Who Stole The Rainbow?
  • 2016 Storylines Notable Book Award (Picture Book) for Stripes! No, Spots!
  • 2016 IBBY Honour Book for The Boring Book
  • 2016 Storylines Notable Book Award for Stripes! No, Spots!
  • 2014 Storylines Notable Book Award for The Boring Book
  • 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year for The Boring Book
  • 2014 New Zealand Post Best Picture Book for The Boring Book
  • 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year for The Boring Book
  • 2014 White Raven for The Boring Book
  • 2011 Storylines Notable Book Awards Picture Books List for Hill & Hole
  • 2011 Storylines Notable Book Awards Non-fiction List for Star Boy and Friends and Weird Wabbit and Friends (as a series)
  • 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards Finalist for Hill & Hole
  • 2011 Russell Clark Award 2011 for Hill & Hole
  • 2011 Elsie Locke Award Finalist for Star Boy and Friends and Weird Wabbit and Friends
  • 2011 PANZ Book Design Awards Best Book for Hill & Hole
  • 2008 Storylines Notable Book Awards Picture Books List for The Bean’s Story

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