2023 NZCYA Russell Clark Award For Illustration Finalists

We’re thrilled to be continuing our tradition of bringing you the inside scoop with an exclusive look into the illustration process for the finalist titles in this category. Be it character designs, cover concepts, working sketches, magnificent final spreads, or even a sneak peek into the art that didn’t make the final cut, we’ve got you covered!

Thanks to the Book Awards Trust for the book descriptions.

A fisher-boy is rescued by an independent princess when he runs into trouble near her lighthouse. Illustrated with an energy that is thrown into relief by its limited colour palette, thoughtful and witty details encourage readers to join the characters as they ponder life in a tower by the sea. Keep an eye out for the flying chocolate fish!

The rough sketch for the capsize/drowning/rescue sequence
The final version of the spread
The rough sketch for the rescue spread
The final version of the spread
An alternate version of the rescue spread that didn’t make the final cut

The Lighthouse Princess

By Susan Wardell

Illustrated by Rose Northey

Published by Puffin, Penguin Random House

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This delightful collection of over 200 animal poems from Aotearoa writers is illustrated with warmth, verve and humour. Jenny Cooper’s deft touch with a paintbrush brings every character to life, and the backgrounds, layout and choice of images allow poems to flourish and breathe, creating a beautiful, timeless and accessible anthology.

A rough draft of the otter spread
The final version of the spread
Some rough sketches of pīwakawaka from different angles
How the fantail appeared in the final spread
The illustration-only version of the ‘Do Snails Have Ears’ and ‘Pūpūrangi, Kauri Snail’ spread

Roar Squeak Purr

Edited by Paula Green

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Published by Puffin, Penguin Random House

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Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the greatest artists of all time, is the subject of this stunningly illustrated biography. Frequently referencing the art of Leonardo himself, Donovan Bixley skilfully combines research, visual humour, puns and puzzles, technical skills and good old-fashioned drawing ability to produce an exceptional art book that is not at all stuffy.

Character sketches/designs for the beastly men in the Great Horse spread
How they appear in the final spread
The rough sketch for the theatre spread
The final version of the spread
An unused sketch of Leonardo and the lawyers

A Portrait of Leonardo

Written and illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Published by Upstart Press

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Ranginui and Papatūānuku’s children forcibly separate their parents so they no longer have to live in a world without light. With bravery, fluency and skill, Mat Tait’s illustrations draw readers into a tale submerged in darkness. There is fury in the drawing and beauty in the shadows, coupled with bold design and typography.

The rough sketch of Rangi and Papa’s children crawling between their parent’s bodies
The final version of the spread
The rough sketch for the separation spread
The final version of the spread
Some initial sketches/brainstorms from Mat’s notebook

Te Wehenga

Written and Illustrated by Mat Tait

Published by Allen & Unwin

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A young Nepalese boy ventures out with his four yaks to discover Shangri-La, encountering the legendary Yeti on his journey. Ant Sang’s dynamic and detailed illustrations capture the mountainous environment and larger-than-life characters of this modern fable, and the expressions on the yaks’ faces will delight readers.

Character design for Lhakpa
Some rough sketches with the text
The final version of the spread
Some cover ideas/concepts

4 Yaks and a Yeti

By Peter Hillary

Illustrated by Ant Sang

Published by Bateman Books

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

Editor Linda Jane Keegan took the picture book finalists to Tākaka Primary School to get the opinions from some of the junior classes.

The 2023 NZCYA finalists announcement, including our picks to win.