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World Book Day Illustrator « Back

Allen Fatimaharan

We’re so thrilled that Allen Fatimaharan is the official illustrator for World Book Day!

Allen creates incredible illustrations, character designs and loves animation. Check out his amazing work in our World Book Day 2023 launch animation below.

Allen is an award-winning illustrator whose first middle grade book, Llama Out Loud by Annabelle Sami, won the inaugural Spark Book Award, was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and Longlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards.

The nominations don’t stop there, with Allen’s first picture book My Hair, by Hannah Lee shortlisted for the BookTrust Storytime Prize, longlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize and nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. His most recent books are A Dinosaur Ate My Sister by Pooja Puri, We are the Ancient Egyptians by David Long and The Rapping Princess by Hannah Lee.

Allen lives in West Oxfordshire with his fiancé. Find out more about Allen on his website, here.

We’re so excited that you are the World Book Day illustrator. What does World Book Day mean to you, and how did you feel when you were asked?

I think World Book Day has always played an important role in helping children who have never picked up a book before to discover the joy of reading. When I started to do school visits before the pandemic lockdowns it was disheartening to see how many children still did not have access to a decent library or librarian. And for children from less well-off backgrounds who may not have any access to books at home, World Book Day plays an important role in providing access to reading and being read to by parents at home. We know reading to children and instilling a joy of reading in children can have a positive impact in helping to fulfil their aspirations. And World Book Day along with charities like Booktrust play a key role in providing access to books. Which is why I was over the moon when I was asked to be the World Book Day illustrator! It was a lovely surprise and I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. And it’s an honour to follow on from illustrators such as Liz Pichon, Jim Field and Rob Biddulph.

You were part of the Pass the Pen campaign (by BookTrust and the Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell), when Rob Biddulph (World Book Day’s most recent illustrator) passed his pen to you. What’s the significance of that campaign to you, and to children’s literature and illustration as a whole?

It was fantastic to have been picked as one of the illustrators for the Pass the Pen campaign. It is important to see greater representation in the books created for children and the publishing industry as a whole so that children can see themselves and their world reflected in the books and authors they read. And it was fantastic of Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell to champion new voices with this campaign.

We love your incredible illustrations, from animals and nature to dragons and ghosts. Can you tell us a bit about the different books you’ve worked on, and what your favourite kinds of things are to draw?

I’ve been lucky enough to work on some fabulous books.  I was fortunate to be picked as the runner up in the 2018 FAB prize for Illustration which led to me being asked to create some samples for a really fun picture book text by an up-and-coming author called Hannah Lee. Luckily Hannah and the publishers Faber liked my samples, as well as Hannah’s agent Angharad who signed me up to her agency, and that started my career in children’s book illustration. That first book, which was published as My Hair, involved me having to design lots of characters with a variety of different hairstyles and as I love drawing people and caricatures, this was a dream first project to work on. Alongside drawing people, I love drawing trees, cats, dogs, llamas, dinosaurs, pigeons and foxes. Since My Hair I have collaborated with Hannah again on a book called The Rapping Princess where I got to design a whole fairy tale kingdom with some unusual modes of transport. I’ve also worked on a series of fiction books by Annabelle Sami starting with Llama Out Loud which gave me the opportunity to draw short comics as well as a scene with a toy llama flying on a pigeon! I also got to illustrate the fantastic Dinosaur Ate My Sister by the Pooja Puri which became the first title chosen for Marcus Rashford’s Bookclub! Another highlight was a short fiction by Emma Norry called A Good Friend about starting at a new school and making friends. And I got to travel to back in time when illustrating the non-fiction books We are the Romans and We are the Ancient Egyptians by author David Long.

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an illustrator?

Animation was my way into illustration. As a kid I used to draw my favourite animated characters from the films and tv series I loved. Then I started making small comic books with characters I would come up with. This love of drawing led me to start art school at 18 with a foundation year in art and design followed by a BA in Illustration and Animation at Kingston university. On this course I loved working on a variety of projects from book and editorial illustration, reportage, experimental and narrative animation. After graduation, I struggled to find enough work to support myself, which led to me doing a variety of different part-time and full-time jobs for the following seven years from working as a bookseller, cataloguing books in a library, stocking shelves in a warehouse, cleaning department stores to working as a marketing assistant and production editor for academic publishers. All this time I kept drawing in my free time and I realised that I loved designing characters and making them move through simple animations. After saving up some money I decided to return to university to study for a Masters in Character Animation at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. After graduating from the masters course in 2017 I was finally able to fulfil my dream of supporting myself financially through my art.

How will you be celebrating World Book Day?

I will be keeping an eye out for anyone dressed up as characters I illustrated – it was a joy when that happened the previous couple of years! And World Book Day is the same day as my birthday this year, so I’m hoping there will be cake!

World Book Day® is a charity sponsored by National Book Tokens.