I don't think I'm finished illustrating passages of Matilda, but this particular project will go on hold for a while with the start of MFA classes in the fall.
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.