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Big Little Book Awardee | Illustrator | 2019

Priya Kuriyan has the rare ability to enter the child’s mind with her illustrations that bring alive a story to a young reader. She dives into the narrative, acquiring a deep and multi-faceted understanding that is critical in allowing the story to emerge in illustration. The story emerges through her lines, textures and colours that harmonise to enable the illustrations speak with the text to create the story atmosphere, which lies at the heart of good story telling. Her extensive research for the context of the plots facilitates her in capturing a reality that is hard to ignore but is often absent in children’s illustrations. Her work is as sensitive to her reader as it is to the context of the story, with her illustrations making it easy for a reader, and importantly a child reader, to experience the story gently.

Priya Kuriyan has been exceptional in her creative output for children’s literature, supported by a body of work that is seldom surpassed in terms of range and quality. Her evolution as an illustrator has seen her experiment with a variety of styles and media, particularly in recent years. She has meticulously crafted Indira, with details that bring out Indira Gandhi’s style and persona. Her research into detail can been seen in depicting historically accurate scientific instruments in Anna’s Extraordinary Experiments with Weather. Her pastel work in Why the Elephant has Tiny Eyes is instructive in the use of shades, tones and perspective to bring out the forest-edge landscape, and a sense of the movement in the characters while keeping in mind the theme of the story.

Her characters acquire distinct personalities – the elephant in Why the Elephant has Tiny Eyes, various animals and birds in The Poop Book, Indira Gandhi in Indira, or Ammachi in Ammachi’s Glasses – each one stands out as a character sketch in illustration. Ammachi’s Glasses, a narrative-driven wordless picture book needs special mention. Priya Kuriyan tackles this challenging form by bringing alive the story of a Kafka-reading grandmother Ammachi, through rich socio-cultural details from a Keralite household that fill each page, supported by a secondary narrative in the background. Priya Kuriyan continues to experiment and build on her corpus of work to explore new vistas in illustrated storytelling for children. She invites her readers to experience a sense of discovery each time we encounter her work.