An artist from Hitchin has won a national prize for children's picture book illustration.

Mariajo Ilustrajo was awarded the Klaus Flugge Prize for 2023 at a glitzy ceremony in London on Wednesday, September 13. It follows the publication of her book Flooded, in which animals team up to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Every year, the Klaus Flugge Prize is given to 'the most promising and exciting newcomer' to children's picture book illustration, with the winner receiving £5,000.

Following her win, Mariajo - who is originally from Madrid and now lives in Hitchin - said: “It’s difficult to describe with words the joy of winning this prestigious prize. I’ve been an illustrator for a long time but becoming a children’s book illustrator and author seemed like just a dream.

“This recognition makes me feel that I’m heading in the right direction and encourages me to keep exploring new ways of creating new stories.

"I am ‘flooded’ with happiness and proud to know my book touched the Klaus Flugge Prize judges amongst such an amazing shortlist.”

Mariajo began Flooded while studying the MA Children’s Book Illustration course at Anglia Ruskin University, and the work also helped her win the prize for Best New Talent at the World Illustration Awards.

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges described Flooded as "fresh and beautifully drawn", and "full of playfulness even as it delivers an important message".

Lydia Monks, a best-selling illustrator and one of the judges, said: "I was really impressed with Mariajo Ilustrajo’s book, Flooded.

"The sophistication and competence displayed is exceptional for someone so new to publishing. I’m excited to follow her career.”

Joseph Namara Hollis, the 2022 winner and a judge this year, added: "Flooded has it all! It absorbs you into a world teeming with life. The character details are captivating, drawing you closer.

"Each page is dynamic with plenty to discover as the drama unfolds. And whilst it is a fun story, it delivers an important message with warmth and humour. This is a book to enjoy again and again."

Julia Eccleshare, chair of judges and director of Hay Children's Festival, said: “Picture book illustration is in a robust state of health and the submissions for this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize were very strong.

"Our five shortlisted illustrators have enormous technical skill as well as an exceptional understanding of how illustration carries story and meaning.

"Huge congratulations to Mariajo on winning this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize; Flooded is a book that speaks both to now and of universal themes.”

Shelley Jackson, Associate Professor and Course Leader for MA Children’s Book Illustration at ARU, said: “We are immensely proud of Mariajo and all that she has achieved with Flooded.

“She started this project on her third module, 'Illustrator & Audience: The Paradox', on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration. She worked so hard while she was with us, and it has truly paid off. This is a well-deserved honour for Mariajo!”

The Klaus Flugge Prize was established in 2016 and is named after the founder of Andersen Press, an independent children's publisher.