Short Reports: Marika McCoola vs. Matilda.

August 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm 3 comments

Hello! Israel’s informed me he’s a little behind on his newest piece for Where the Red Fern Grows, so today we’ll drop in with another Short Report, this time visiting another well-loved Roald Dahl book with Marika McCoola. Enjoy!

I love the dark quirkiness of Dahl’s stories. His characters are at once ridiculous and so detailed that they must actually exist. Last year I worked on a series of illustrations for Edward Lear’s limericks, which share a strange sensibility with Dahl’s work. I enjoyed working with Lear’s texts and found myself thinking about Dahl as I worked. Wanting to work with a longer piece than one of Dahl’s poems, and fondly remembering Matilda, I decided to pick it up again. The dark, very British humor and ridiculous events tend to make me grin with glee and I can’t help but love characters who are enamored of books….

Chapter 1: The Reader of Books
‘Did you know,’ Mrs Phelps said, ‘that public libraries like this allow you to borrow books and take them home?’

‘I didn’t know that,’ Matilda said. ‘Could I do it?’

‘Of course,’ Mrs Phelps said. ‘When you have chosen the book you want, bring it to me so I can make a note of it and it’s yours for two weeks. You can take more than one if you wish.’

Chapter 2: The Ghost
‘I’m fed up with your reading anyway. Go and find yourself something useful to do.’ With frightening suddenness he [Mr Wormwood] now began ripping the pages out of the book in handfuls and throwing them in the waste-paper basket.

Matilda froze in horror. The father kept going. There seemed little doubt that the man felt some kind of jealousy. How dare she, he seemed to be saying with each rip of a page, how dare she enjoy reading books when he couldn’t? How dare she?

‘That’s a library book! Matilda cried. ‘It doesn’t belong to me! I have to return it to Mrs. Phelps!’

There are many books in this world I do not agree with and hope no one ever reads, but the idea of directing violence toward a book is unthinkable, as it rends not just thoughts, but, in the case of fiction, entire worlds. Though we as readers already dislike Mr. Wormwood, this scene establishes Matilda’s father as a truly horrid man and enables us to laugh at him later when Matilda exacts her devious revenge.

Marika McCoola holds a BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art and currently manages the children’s section of the Odyssey Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley (a magical place where authors and illustrators seem to grow on trees). She once hoped to limit her book collection but finds that every time she turns around the stacks have multiplied. Marika will begin her MFA in writing and illustrating for children at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in the fall. You can see more of Marika’s work on her website,, and her blog,, and read her book reviews on

Entry filed under: Short Reports. Tags: , .

“Red Fern” Sketch He heard the voices of two men talking over the sound of water running in the sink.

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sbosma  |  August 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Marika! These are amazing! That top one is your best work! Aside from the craftsmanship, the composition and cropping are impeccable.

  • […] Short Reports: Marika McCoola vs. Matilda. « Picture Book Report […]

  • 3. eva  |  September 2, 2010 at 10:05 am

    wow! these are fabulous! hope that you get around to continuing this series sometime.


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