Sybil Wettasinghe

Kala Keerthi Sybil Wettasinghe is a veteran children’s book writer and an illustrator in Sri Lanka. Her books have been translated into several languages.

Early life

Wettasinghe was born in 1928 and spent the first six years of her childhood in the village of Gintota, situated in the suburbs of Galle, in southern Sri Lanka. Then her family moved to Colombo where she entered into Holy Family Convent. At the age of 17 Wettasinghe joined Lankadeepa newspaper. In 1952, Wettasinghe moved to the much-coveted Lakehouse publications where she became the main illustrator of the Janatha newspaper. Her entry into Lakehouse gave access to an entire network of newspapers and she wrote and illustrated for the Sundayobserver, Silumina, Daily Newsand Sarasaviya. In 1955,she married Don Dharmapala Wettasinghe, the Chief Editor of all the Lakehouse Newspapers. She is a grandmother of five.


In 1952, while working at the Janatha newspaper, Wettasinghe made her first attempt to write stories. She produced a narrative called Kuda Hora for the children’s page of the newspaper. This story eventually developed into a book that won critical acclaim both locally and internationally. Inspired by the success of Kuda Hora, Wettasighe applied herself to writing as well as illustrating and proceeded to produce over 200 children’s books over the course of her career.Most of her books have been translated into languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, English, Korean, Dutch and Tamil.


During her career, Wettasinghe has won much international acclaim and her children’s stories secured awards both in Europe and Asia. In 1965, her story ‘Vesak Lantern’ won an Isabel Hutton Prize for Asian Women writers for Children. Her first book ‘Kuda Hora’ was chosen for the Best Foreign Book Award in Japan in 1986 and in 1987 it won the Japanese Library Association Award as the most popular children’s book. ‘Kuda Hora’ book was translated into seven languages (English, Norwegian, Danish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Swedish). Wettasinghe has held exhibitions of her work in Japan and Czechoslovakia and in 2003, she was invited to Norway for a book festival for well-known authors. Internationally her work has received high acclaim and attention, in particular for its distinctly vernacular themes and styles.

  • For “The Wesak Lantern : State Literary Award for best English Children’s book in year 1996.
  • For “The Child in Me” : The Gratiaen Prize for most Creative English book in year 1995.[17][18]
  • Prize for illustrations of “Deeptha Lama Maga”, awarded by prestigious Biannale of Illustrations in Bratislava (BIB).
  • State Literary Award for “Magul Gedara Bath Natho” book in year 1971.
  • Best Children’s Picture Book award for “The Umbrella Thief” by Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Japan, in year 1986.
  • Most popular Children’s Book award by Tokyo Children’s Library, in year 1987.
  • Award for Illustrations of the Sinhala Children’s Bible “Deeptha Lama Maga” in year 1989, presented by Biannale of Illustrations Bratislava.
  • Best Juvenile Children’s Book Award for “Meti Gedara Lamay” by Arts Council of Sri Lanka in year 1992.
  • Best English Children’s Book award for “Wooley Ball” by Arts Council of Sri Lanka in year 1994.
  • Gratiaen Prize for best English Children’s Book for “The Child in Me” in year 1995.
  • Hoity the Fox – By the Ministry of Culture and Social Welfare Japan, in year 1995.
  • “Vishwa Prasadini” Award for Art and Children’s Literature presented by the 1st Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranayaka, in year 1996.
  • Award of “Rohana Pradeepa” from the University of Ruhuna in year 2003.
  • “Galu Pahansilu” – from the Young Men’s Buddhist Association Galle, in year 2004.
  • Kala Keerthi award presented by the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, in year 2005.
  • “Solis Mendis Award” in year 2007.
  • For “Dura Gamanak” The State literary awards
  • Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture for 2012

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