A student-artist in Port Washington was named as a winner in a contest to draw an illustration for a new book by a beloved author.
Lucy Navalany, a fourth-grader at John Philip Sousa Elementary School, was one of 34 young artists across the world chosen by Scholastic to provide illustrations for “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s first children’s book in 13 years, the fairy tale “The Ickabog.”
Lucy first gained interest in drawing from reading books by children’s author Mo Willems as well as the comic strips “Big Nate” by Lincoln Pierce and “Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Watterson, and had started drawing her own characters.
“I wasn’t doing cartoons yet, but I have a character I’m drawing all the time,” she said in a phone interview.
The character, named Hearty, has so far been drawn on the family’s refrigerator, mail counter, and on cards sent to relatives and friends during the pandemic, her mother, Ilse, said.
As the 2019-20 school year was drawing to a close, Lucy’s third-grade teacher, Kathy Wengenosky, noting her talent in art, told her mother about a contest she had heard about, where artists between the ages of 7 and 12 were invited to read a serialized version of Rowling’s story and draw a picture of a scene of their choice, with an opportunity for the illustration to be used in the book.
“This is such a great testament to Sousa, because she reached out to me, and you know we’re all so busy with online learning, but she reached out to me digitally and said, ‘I think Lucy should enter this contest,’” Ilse Navalany said. “And we were really touched by that, and that’s what motivated Lucy, that her teacher took the time to say it.”
Determined, Lucy waited until the last part of the story was released, according to her mother.
“Lucy waited until the end and read the whole thing in one sitting, it was that good,” Navalany said, also in a phone interview. “She read it in one day, and then worked on her drawing all night.”
The story involves the Ickabog, a creature as tall as two horses and with the ability to speak and make fire, and a nearby kingdom that imposes a harsh tax to pay for a defense against the creature. When four teenagers from the kingdom run into the Ickabog, they discover it is not the monster they feared, and race to reveal the truth to their countrymen.
Lucy’s picture, drawn with pastel crayons after being sketched in pencil, depicts a scene from the story where the Ickabog and a group of children hand out food to those who can’t afford it due to the heavy taxes.
“The children are treating him fairly, but everyone else thinks he’s a monster,” she said. “The Ickabog is being kind and helping people, and that inspired me to pick that part of the story. I was sitting late into the night, drawing chocolates and pineapples and strawberries.”
Mere days after the July 17 deadline, Lucy received a “congratulations” email from Scholastic, telling her that her picture was one of 34 picked out of over 42,000 entries.
She said her family has received a copy of the book, which will be released in the United States on Nov. 10.
“It’s so exciting seeing it,” she said. “It’s just like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s in a book!’”
Overall, though, she wants readers to take the message of “The Ickabog” to heart.
“Everybody thought the Ickabog was this evil monster and they’re raising taxes against him, going after him. But these kids stood up for him, traveled with him to help the poor people in the city,” Lucy said. “I think the message of the book is to always be kind to others.”