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ARU graduate Mariajo wins major illustration prize

Published: 14 September 2023 at 13:29

Maria Ilustrajo with the Klaus Flugge Prize. Credit: Adrian Pope

Book that started life during Masters course at ARU is awarded Klaus Flugge Prize

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) graduate Mariajo Ilustrajo has been named as the winner of the 2023 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. Mariajo received the £5,000 prize during a ceremony in London last night.

Four of the five illustrators on the shortlist for this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize are graduates of the MA in Children’s Book Illustration course at ARU’s Cambridge School of Art, with Mariajo featuring alongside Alice Courtley, Gill Smith and Paula White.

Double-page spread from the book Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo, with illustrations of wild animals wading through water


Originally from Madrid and now based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Mariajo won for Flooded (Frances Lincoln Books), a funny but powerful book in which animals team up to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Mariajo said:

“It’s difficult to describe with words the joy of winning this prestigious prize. I’ve been an illustrator for a long time but becoming a children’s book illustrator and author seemed like just a dream.

“This recognition makes me feel that I’m heading in the right direction and encourages me to keep exploring new ways of creating new stories. I am ‘flooded’ with happiness and proud to know my book touched the Klaus Flugge Prize judges amongst such an amazing shortlist.”

Mariajo began Flooded while studying the MA Children’s Book Illustration course at ARU, and the work also helped her win the prize for Best New Talent at the World Illustration Awards.

Front cover of the book Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo, with illustration of a lion wading through deep water

Shelley Jackson, Associate Professor and Course Leader for MA Children’s Book Illustration at ARU, said:

“We are immensely proud of Mariajo and all that she has achieved with Flooded.

“She started this project on her third module, Illustrator & Audience: The Paradox, on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration. She worked so hard while she was with us, and it has truly paid off. This is a well-deserved honour for Mariajo!”

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges described Flooded as fresh and beautifully drawn, and full of playfulness even as it delivers an important message. Judge and best-selling illustrator Lydia Monks said:

"I was really impressed with Mariajo Ilustrajo’s book, Flooded. The sophistication and competence displayed is exceptional for someone so new to publishing. I’m excited to follow her career.”

Chair of the judges Julia Eccleshare, Director of Hay Children’s Festival, said:

“Picture book illustration is in a robust state of health and the submissions for this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize were very strong. Our five shortlisted illustrators have enormous technical skill as well as an exceptional understanding of how illustration carries story and meaning. Huge congratulations to Mariajo on winning this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize; Flooded is a book that speaks both to now and of universal themes.”

Established in 2016, the Klaus Flugge Prize honours Klaus Flugge, the founder of leading independent children’s publisher Andersen Press. Earlier this year, Klaus received the London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous winners of the Klaus Flugge Prize include ARU Children’s Book Illustration graduates Eva Eland, Flavia Z Drago and Kate Milner.

Picture credit: Adrian Pope