Clean sweep for ARU students at Macmillan awards

Published: 25 June 2024 at 11:03

Abi Bi

Children’s Book Illustration students claim top three prizes in national competition

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) students have claimed a remarkable 1-2-3 in the prestigious Macmillan Prize for Illustration.

The students, from the Children’s Book Illustration MA course at ARU’s Cambridge School of Art, received their prizes at a ceremony at the London offices of publishing giant Pan Macmillan.

Abi Bi took the top prize with her picture book It’s Swing Time. It was Abi’s second time entering the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, having come second in 2023 with Where’s Katie’s Cat?

Second prize was awarded to Claire Lemp for Charles Makes Tea and third prize was awarded to Antara Raman for Furlock. In addition to the top three prizes, nine of the 20 highly commended entries also came from ARU students.

The clean sweep at the Macmillan Prize for Illustration is the latest success for students and graduates of ARU’s world-leading Children’s Book Illustration MA course during the current academic year.

Chloe Savage won the Illustrated Books category at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2024, Simona Massa finished top in the New Talent Children’s Publishing category at the World Illustration Awards, and Mariajo Ilustrajo won the £5,000 Klaus Flugge Prize.

In recent weeks, Naomi Tipping won the Batsford Prize Illustration category and fellow student Charlotte Durance claimed the Batsford Prize Children’s Book Illustration category, while Heike Scharrer won the Illustration category at the Print Magazine 2024 awards, one of the leading design competitions in the United States.

Commenting on Abi Bi’s success at the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, Chris Inns, Chair of Judges and Art Director at Macmillan Children’s Books, said:

“We received nearly 400 submissions, which is a record number, and 45% up on the number we received in 2023. Opening up the criteria to a wider group of non-professional illustrators has given us a large selection of different media in a range of styles to review. 

“Abi’s winning entry delighted all of the judges. Her watercolour art is expressive and joyful, and her images are so engaging that it almost disguises the huge amount of skill and artistry that goes into her book. Each scene is rendered in flowing lines and elegant brush work, and every page depicts the simple theme, but takes it in a different direction at each page turn, revealing a surprise that makes you chuckle every time. 

“Her art has universal appeal and is perfect for children and the adults who read to them. On behalf of this year’s judges, I would like to congratulate Abi on her well-deserved win, and at the same time thank everyone who entered our competition this year.”

Abi, who has just completed her Masters course at ARU and will graduate later this summer, said:

“My artwork reflects my connection with nature and the world around me. 

“I am incredibly honoured to have won the Macmillan Prize for Illustration this year. Each page of It’s Swing Time unfolds a different story of animals on a swing, and I hope everyone can enjoy the simple yet imaginative moments of swinging along with them.”

Shelley Ann Jackson, Associate Professor and Course Leader of the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at ARU, said:

“We’re incredibly proud of Abi, who has found success twice now in this competition. For ARU students to receive the top three prizes in the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, out of almost 400 entries, is a remarkable achievement. 

“What’s so pleasing is that students and graduates from our course here in Cambridge are being recognised on the national and international stage on a regular basis. Competitions such as the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the World Illustration Awards are all highly regarded within the industry, so winning these accolades is tremendously helpful as they set out on their professional journeys.”

The judging panel of the 2024 Macmillan Prize for Illustration was a mix of external experts and members of the Macmillan Children’s Books team. Chair Chris Inns was accompanied by Suzanne Carnell (Publisher of Two Hoots), Emily Ford (Editorial Director of Picture Books at Macmillan), Alex T. Smith (How Winston Delivered Christmas, The Nutcracker), Camilla Reid (Who’s Cute, Five Little Ducks), Sharon King-Chai (Starbird, Counting Creatures), Amanda Truman (Owner of Truman Books, Leeds), and Lucy Bannerman (news reporter and children’s book reviewer at The Times).