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Vasanti Unka
Photo Credit: © Ahnand Unka

Vasanti Unka

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Vasanti Unka is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator noted for the originality of her storytelling, her riotously colourful and inventive illustrations and the gorgeous design and production of her picture books.

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.

The Boring Book (Puffin 2013), which Vasanti wrote, illustrated and designed, was named the 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and also took out the Best Picture Book Award category. 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.

Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015 and described by poet Paula Green as 'scrumptious in every way', 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, shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2021 and won the 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book. 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.'

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 author, school visits, creative work, postgraduate study and numerous book projects.

Books by Vasanti Unka

My Elephant Is Blue

An award-winning, quirky story about a child who is stuck carrying around an elephant, wondering if they will ever feel light and free again . . .

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I am the Universe

A gorgeous, award-winning illustrated story about our place in the Universe - it comes with a billion star rating!

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Who Stole the Rainbow?

A dazzling 'mystery thriller for children' about how rainbows appear and disappear by award-winning picture book creator Vasanti Unka.

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Awards & recognition

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award

Winner  •  2014  •  for The Boring Book

IBBY Honour Award

Awarded  •  2016  •  IBBY Honour Award for Illustration

PANZ Book Design Awards

Winner  •  2021  •  Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children's Book for I am the Universe

The Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  Arts Foundation Laureate Award

More features

Video
How do rainbows happen? | WHO STOLE THE RAINBOW | Vasanti Unka

Ever wondered how rainbows happen? Watch this video to find out! Inspired by the story WHO STOLE THE RAINBOW from Vasanti Unka A razzle-dazzle rainbow suddenly disappears from the sky . . . What happened? Was it stolen? Who will solve the mystery? Be prepared for a thrilling tale of crime, suspense, sunshine and rain. Read more: po.st/WhoStoleTheRainbow