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Meet the winners: Kyan Cheng

IBC Awards 2024

Image of an East Asian woman, illustrator Kyan Cheng, smiling. She has long black hair and wears a pretty scarf.

It’s time for our penultimate ‘Meet the winners’ feature where we chat to Kyan Cheng, illustrator of the IBC Awards 2024 Children’s Fiction winner, Meet the Maliks - Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit.

We spoke to Kyan about her enjoyment of reading as a child, the lack of diversity in literature, and how this all influenced her decision to become a children’s book illustrator.

Have you always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator?

I have loved drawing and crafting for as long as I can remember. I knew from a young age that I wanted to do something creative as a career, but I can’t believe that I’m illustrating books now! It has been my dream for quite some time. I have really fond memories of going to the library as a kid, and the stories I read brought me so much joy. I really wanted to do the same thing for other kids growing up.

When I need to reference facial expressions or poses, I sometimes act them out myself and take pictures which can be both terrifying and hilarious.

We’d love to know more about your process for illustrating Meet the Maliks.

I always start off with a really rough sketch to explore the movements or poses of the characters. Then that gets refined gradually to the final illustration. If there’s a background, then I go through the same process and I try different scenes out, and think about how the characters or objects sit in the environment. Sometimes, I use shading to add definition where I think it’s needed. When I need to reference facial expressions or poses, I sometimes act them out myself and take pictures which can be both terrifying and hilarious.

What chapters or scenes in the book were the most fun to illustrate?

I loved drawing the sloth, but I also loved drawing Norman make wudu. I remember laughing a lot during the process because I had to get my husband to take pictures of me in funny poses for reference.

How do you feel about winning the Inclusive Books for Children’s Awards?

I’m over the moon about winning the award! Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of books with much diversity so to win this award is very special indeed, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with Zanib who is a very talented writer.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes!

What’s the first thing you did on hearing you’d won? How did you celebrate?

I told my husband excitedly, but we didn’t really celebrate as I was ill.

What would you like readers to take away from reading your winning book?

That heroes come in all shapes and sizes!

When you’re not creating children’s books, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love spending time with my son who is currently two. I love seeing things through his eyes and just watching him grow up. I also love cooking and going out exploring new places. When I have a bit more time I want to do more felting as I started doing it a few years ago, and I find it so relaxing.

What’s next for you? New books, upcoming events...?

I’m currently working on book three of Meet the Maliks.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?

Apart from my family, I need tea to function.

Meet the Maliks - Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Kyan Cheng, is out now and published by Hachette Children’s.

You can read our IBC review of Meet the Maliks - Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit here.

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