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  • Published: 1 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143773443
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

I am the Universe

A gorgeous, award-winning illustrated story about our place in the Universe - it comes with a billion star rating!

From glittering galaxies to busy city streets, this stunning picture book takes you on a tour around the Universe.
I am the Universe,
an infinite space
of glittering galaxies.

It's a starlit journey through space that will lead you to a wonderful planet brimming with all kinds of life - including yours.

This stunning story demonstrating the scale of the Universe and our place in it was created specially for children aged three years and up by the award-winning author-illustrator Vasanti Unka, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, the Milky Way, the Universe.

Winner, NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book 2021
Winner, NZSA New Zealand Heritage Literary Awards Best Children's Book 2021
Winner, PANZ Design Awards Best Children's Book 2021

  • Published: 1 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143773443
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

About the author

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator noted for the originality of her storytelling, her riotously colourful and inventive illustrations and the gorgeous design and production of her picture books.

Vasanti is the illustrator of Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn, which was shortlisted for the Best Picture Book award at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hill & Hole won the LIANZA Russell Clark Award the same year and was also the first children's book to win the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards.

The Boring Book (Puffin 2013), which Vasanti wrote, illustrated and designed, was named the 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and also took out the Best Picture Book Award category. The judges described it as 'a remarkable book that exceeds any expectations of its genre. It exhibits the highest quality of design and its presentation is thoroughly original. The story takes delightful unexpected turns that charm afresh with each reading. Small children and older readers alike will be delighted by its subversive touches and entertained by its warmth and fun.' It also won international acclaim with its inclusion in the 2014 White Ravens Catalogue and in 2016 was named an IBBY Honour Book for the excellence of its illustrations.

Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015 and described by poet Paula Green as 'scrumptious in every way', was lauded as a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book and was simultaneously published in the UK and US.

Who Stole the Rainbow?, a humorous, genre-spanning scientific mystery-thriller for children about how rainbows appear and disappear, was published in 2018. It was a finalist for the Best Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019.

I am the Universe, published in 2020, shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2021 and won the 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book. The judges praised its ‘Wonderful illustrations' and 'vibrant descriptions ... the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.’

I am the Universe
went on to win the PANZ Book Design Awards Best Children's Book 2021 and was a finalist in the Best Typography category. Judge Ant Sang called it '...a book which readers can enjoy over and over, and find something new to discover each time. Fun and imaginative throughout, the large format perfectly suits the scale of the subject. Readers can’t help but feel transported on a joyous journey from the first to last page.'

In August 2021 Vasanti was also awarded the Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for Illustration.

Vasanti lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she juggles author, school visits, creative work, postgraduate study and numerous book projects.

Also by Vasanti Unka

See all

Praise for I am the Universe

It’s celebration time because a glorious new Vasanti Unka book has arrived in the world. It is scintillating. It gleams and it glimmers.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

I am the Universe embodies this desire to know where we are in the grand scheme of it all....[It] conveys a sense of wonder, a sense of the enormity of the infinite and the drama of the cosmos, and the thrilling diversity and richness of nature. But it also provides a sense of the collegiality of community, and the warm embrace of our family. It is at once reassuring and also mind expanding, with plenty of triggers to spark conversations about big scientific and philosophical concepts. And it is all done with simple yet compelling, thoughtful text, and bold, flat artwork that covers every inch of each page. The illustrations are attractive, colourful and dynamic sending the reader swirling through space, swimming through oceans and strolling through town, all enabled by a generously big format which makes you feel like you’re falling into the world of the book.

Melinda Szymanik, Kids Books NZ

Coming from a writer based in Auckland, New Zealand, the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, the Milky Way, this charming book takes readers on a tour of the universe. Designed especially to help young ones (aged 3-5 years) begin to understand the vast nature of nature itself and their place in it, I am the Universe is an ‘out of this world’ tale.

Rural Living Auckland

Wow! Reading this with a group of youngsters aged 6 – 9, it was clear that the illustrations – so bold and bright and simply stunning – were a clear winner in what’s described as a “starlit” journey from the outer reaches of the universe to planet Earth and then right down to a family home and the heart and mind of a child. That it featured space and planets added to its appeal; animals and nature drawings were also popular. It’s a big colourful book which makes readers think about the universe and the world and what it means to be part of it and would be good to read snuggled up to a parent or grandparent.

Dionne Christian, Kete

[A]n absolute winner...Each page throughout is a feast for the eyes and the brain

Becky Popham, The Sapling

fricking gorgeous (of course it was – Unka is the genius behind The Boring Book and Who Stole the Rainbow?)

Unity Books Children's Bestseller list, The Spinoff Review of Books

Magical, vibrant illustrations that will transport you from the furthest reaches of space to the neighbourhoods we live in and the beds we cuddle up in with books. Heaps of cool detail in the illustrations and simple but effective text – and all bundled up in a styley purple hardback cover.

The Sapling

a dazzling introduction to the basic concepts of stars and space, which comes back down to the personal with an intimate family bubble of hands, feet, books and cat. “We are a family: being together is all that we need.”

Ann Packer, NZ Listener Best Children's Books 2020

[A]ccessible and appealing...Vasanti Unka's illustrations are simply spectacular, and her language charming and poetic: "I am an ocean, with dancing blue waves that sing to each shore." Highly recommended.

Emma Wood, Otago Daily Times

Wonderful illustrations combine with sparse, yet vibrant, descriptions to create a deftly structured book beginning with the vastness of the universe which then gradually narrows its focus to the earth and, finally, to the domestic lives of people living here. This is a book which informs through entertainment, and children – and adults – will be tempted into it again and again by the vivid and detailed images. In our current climate of COVID, the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.

NZ Booklovers

Awards & recognition

NZ Booklovers Award

Winner  •  2021  •  Best Children's Book

PANZ Book Design Awards

Winner  •  2021  •  Best Typography Award

Storylines Notable Picture Book Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  A Storylines Notable Picture Book

The NZSA New Zealand Heritage Literary Awards

Winner  •  2021  •  Best Children's Book

New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

Finalist  •  2021  •  Russell Clark Award for Illustration

PANZ Book Design Awards

Finalist  •  2021  •  Best Children's Book

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