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EliPuli | Interview with Author-Illustrator Lavanya Karthik
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Interview with Author-Illustrator Lavanya Karthik

In celebration of Singapore’ Children’s Day 2019, EliPuli speaks with our fondest version of Peter Pan – author-illustrator Lavanya Karthik! When you read her books and speak to her, it becomes clear why both her writing and illustrations are such a hit with the young ones (and the ones who refuse to grow up) – she truly channels her inner child and creates a world you don’t want to come out from! You’re bound to have run into her books – Neel on Wheels, I Won’t Eat That, A Walk with Thambi, A Book is a Bee, Hatchu! Ha-aaa-tchu!, The Lion’s Feast, Too Big Too Small, Fly, Little Fish!, Gul in Space, Cyborg Dadu and…. The NINJA NANI series (SO FUN)! Most of them are available at NLB, go check them out!





If you had to choose a nursery rhyme to illustrate, what would you choose and why?


May I cheat, and talk of a poem instead of a nursery rhyme…it would have to be Jabberwocky or the Mad Gardener’s Song, both by Lewis Carroll, because of the sheer silliness, the utter funniness, the fantastic meter, the vivid imagery, the brilliant wordplay….


Click on the image to read விண்வெளியில் பிறந்தநாள்



How do you find inspiration when you start a new project? What is your process and how much research is involved?


Each book is different. Some begin with words, others are triggered by a single image in my head. Some books write themselves from the word GO, some simmer on the back burner for years or months, then fall into place in a week’s time, when the timing’s right. Illustration is a lot harder for me and takes a lot of sketching, re-sketching, re-re-sketching…



Click on the image to read What Does Anu See?



Do you have a secret hotline you can call where kids help you with expert feedback on your stories and art? ☺ How do you decide if your creation will speak to the young reader?


I wish I did! The truth is, I send each book out into the world and then sit and bite my nails down to stubs, worrying about how my readers will respond to it. I can only really speak for myself, so I write a book or draw a picture I will enjoy, and hope a few kids and their adults will feel the same way.



Click on the image to read Hatchu! Ha-aaa-tchu!



What was your childhood like? Were stories always your passion? 


I was the weird, sullen kid in the last bench without too many human friends, who was always reading. Fortunately, I had lots of friends in books, and I spent my childhood in their company. I led a boring, uneventful life on the outside, interspersed with lots of awkwardness involving trying (and failing) to make friends, but a wild, rich and adventurous life inside my head, thanks to the many, many, many books I devoured. All these years later, I am still often accused of living largely inside my head. What can I say, I have cake in there! And a bouncy house!  And an army of imaginary pugs! Want to join me? Bring your lightsaber.


Click on the image to read விமானங்கள் பறப்பது எப்படி?



What advice do you have for parents and children who feel strongly about a future in authoring or illustrating but are worried about whether they would be good enough? 


Stop worrying! Everyone is good enough! Or rather, no one starts off very good, but the only way to get better is practice! Let them practice whatever it is they enjoy – writing, reading, drawing, cartwheels, burping the national anthem. Let them struggle, fail, try harder, fail again. Nothing else will make success quite as sweet and satisfying as the long, arduous path to it. For me, the greatest joy in building my life around words and pictures is that it’s always going to be an uphill task. At the risk of sounding like a perky coffee mug, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Unless, of course, the destination has cake. And pugs. And a bounc… See why I was the weird kid?


Click on the image to purchase புத்தகம் ஒரு தேனீ



When you’re having a dull day is there something you like to read or draw that instantly cheers you up?


The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray (as translated by Sukanta Chaudhury). Beastly Tales, by Vikram Seth. Anything by Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. Few things release the jollies quite like an excellently structured nonsense verse. Except, maybe, cake. And pugs… Right, I’ll stop now… 


Click on the image to purchase தம்பியுடன் ஒரு உல்லாச நடை



What was the first thing you remember doodling as a child? What was your favorite childhood book?


Myself. And dogs. My favourite book was also one of the few books I owned, an English translation of ‘‘When Daddy was a Little Boy’, by Alexander Raskin.


Click on the image to purchase Neel on Wheels



What was your experience like in creating Too Big! Too Small! Where did you get the idea for the story and did you run into roadblocks along the way in picturising the spreads?


Too Big was one of those books that fell into place very quickly. It started with memories of my daughter (now 16) struggling to understand why she was too old for something and too young for others. The illustrations evolved too, as I started drawing the characters, detailing the backgrounds. No roadblocks, really, as I had such fun creating Shanu’s world!


Click on the image to read நான் ரொம்பப் பெரியவளா? ரொம்பச் சிரியவளா? 
You can also click here to directly download the bilingual PDF.



Can you share an instance of feeling too big and too small now, as an adult? ☺


Too small – Mountains. Deep, silent forests. The ocean.

Too big – Smartphone keypads. How the rest of the world texts, tweets and writes FB posts I don’t understand. I can barely get my fingers to tap the keys I want!




Announcing the winners of the book giveaway… DRUM ROLL….


Congratulations  Ruby Ggb, Sunny Rasta, Hafizah Beevi and Khathija Begum!



To learn more about Lavanya Karthik’s work :

InstagramInterview with Medium | Interview with The Duck Bill Blog


Book illustrations/covers have been taken from the respective Tulika Publishers, Duck Bill Books and StoryWeaver websites

Artist image is the properties of  Lavanya Karthik

An initiative that started with Tamil Language Month 2019, EliPuli continues to interview children’s book illustrators to find out more about their work and experiences. Why you ask? Because they bring to life the picture books that our little ones love so much! Your child may not be at the age to read words yet, but what draws their attention anyway are the vivid images on the page and these illustrations lay the seed towards passionate readers in the future! EliPuli would like to give thanks to them for the amazing work that they do. Tamil has not enjoyed a very wide range of well-illustrated picture books, so it is important to celebrate the artists who are helping us on our journey as parents and educators to make reading in Tamil fun, enjoyable and mesmerizing!

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