Book Awards: the illustration finalists

As part of our ongoing finalist coverage of this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, we have some glorious snippets to look at from the five Russell Clark Award for Illustration finalists! There are covers, decadent interior spreads, working sketches and even a script sample in there – so go forth and enjoy!

Thanks to the Book Awards Trust for the descriptions of the books from a visual perspective.

A semi-fictionalised account of Captain Cook’s journey across the Pacific, narrated by his cook from backstage. Symbols abound and the muted palette has been chosen with utmost care, with colour cleverly highlighting important visual details. Plants and animals position the reader geographically as the cook eyes them up as a possible next meal. The compositions are complex and well handled, and the hand lettering adds to the book’s historic tone.

COok’s Cook: The Cook Who Cooked For Captain Cook

Illustrated and written by Gavin Bishop

Published by Gecko Press

RRP $29.99

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The illustrations shine in this eco-dystopian time-travel graphic novel. Emotion and action are tackled with equal skill. The characters’ eyes show their torment, concern and anger about the future of the planet and each other, while the pacing of the high-action sequences gets the reader’s blood pumping. Depictions of characters are diverse and inclusive, colours are highly emotive, and settings are sparse and unique. The overall effect is urgent, filmic and worryingly familiar.

This book started its life as a film script – so to help show the journey from one kind of page to another, the images below include an excerpt from Michael Bennett’s film script, an excerpt from his graphic novel script and then some of Ant Sang’s working sketches before some final spreads.

Helen And the Go-Go Ninjas

Illustrated by Ant Sang

Published by Penguin (Penguin Random House NZ)

RRP $30.00

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In this near-wordless story, a pig’s plan for a relaxing soak in the tub is thwarted by his friends-with-boundary-issues. Lightly sketched lines and fluidly applied watercolours add to the watery sense of fun. The colours are soft and understated, and the composition builds perfectly as the story grows more crowded. The masterful illustrations are brimming with so much character that even the bath tap has personality.


Illustrated & written by David Elliot

Published by Gecko Press

RRP $24.99

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Oversized pages immerse the reader in this story of a puffin-architect trying to satisfy two very fussy clients. The detailed cross-sections of different kinds of houses are irresistible and cleverly managed, with excellent use of texture, varying focal points and perspective. The colours are muted and warm, and the use of light makes the pages glow. This art is thoroughly modern, but has the feel of a classic.

Puffin the Architect

Illustrated & written by Kimberly Andrews

Published by Puffin (Penguin Random House NZ)

RRP $19.99

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The story of a boy who comes out of his shell is reinforced at every turn by illustrations that explode with humour and empathy. Compositions are highly energetic, colours are rich, there is movement, expression and layers of detail. You could throw a dart and always hit something that encapsulates New Zealand. While artistically excellent and entirely assured, the illustrations have been created with children firmly and unapologetically in mind.

The Bomb

Illustrated by Josh Morgan

Published by Huia Publishers

RRP $23.00

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Check out our coverage of the other Book Awards for Children & Young Adults categories:

Our NZCYA 2019 quiz – how did you do?

The publishers of the Best Picture Book finalist titles share some of their thoughts about the books

The Best First Book finalists go down memory lane and talk through some influential book moments of their youth

The NZCYA finalists announcement, including reckons from editors Sarah and Briar