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Interview: Vasanti Unka talks about Who Stole the Rainbow



Vasanti Unka’s Who Stole the Rainbow is a finalist for the Picture Book Award at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.


In the book, Inspector Beagle is called in to solve the mystery of the missing rainbow. The judges praised the fluorescent, modern illustrations, which interact perfectly with a quirky, witty storyline. Fold-out pages, engaging fonts and design details make this a book that children will be drawn to — and the rainbow explanation will have them learning without even realising it. Thoroughly original, whimsical and entertaining.




Tell us a little about your book.

It’s a mystery thriller for kids. A rainbow mysteriously disappears from the sky so Inspector Beagle is sent to find out who stole it. He interrogates the wind, the cloud and the rain. Through the narrative and a dynamically placed fold-out page reveal at the end, kids find out how rainbows actually happen.


What inspired you to write this book?

A rainy day, a rainbow and thinking about the science of how we see colours – it seems wonderfully mysterious.


What research was involved?

This covertly scientific book needed to have actual science backing it up so I did heaps of reading about rainbows and the weather.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I did have to find music for the short video that accompanies the book but I needed it to be as cheap as possible so it wasn’t my first choice. The ultimate perfect choice for this mystery thriller set in stormy weather – when Disney does the movie ( just a fantasy)– would be Phoenix Foundation’s Hitchcock.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Samuel L Jackson and Beyonce.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

Giving the rain a troubled, sensitive personality was fun to write as was finding a way to blend genres (mystery and science). Apart from writing though, I loved illustrating the book – every single page was a challenge but a joy to do!


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I’ve just finished Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zuzak. Maybe not my favourite book of the year but I’m still feeling stirred by it. It made me cry. And cry. So being the caring person that I am, I don’t recommend it to anyone. You will end up in tears.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m busy illustrating my next book which is due out next year.


The winners of the New Zealand Books Awards for Children and Young Adults will be revealed at a ceremony in Wellington on 7 August. Full details of all the nominated books are available here (http://www.nzbookawards.nz/new-zealand-book-awards-for-children-and-young-adults/2019-awards/shortlist/)

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