Annika Pinol has always loved drawing and reading. Like many kids her age, she really enjoys the Harry Potter series. So when the 8-year-old learned last spring about an illustration competition for J.K. Rowling’s newest work, “The Ickabog,” she was eager to enter.
Annika submitted many drawings of scenes and characters from “The Ickabog” after reading chapters of the book online, which Rowling released prior to its publication to give children and their families something fun to read during pandemic-related lockdowns. Rowling herself shared and complimented a few of Annika’s drawings on Twitter, calling one “extraordinary.”
Then in August Annika learned one of her drawings—four characters in bright costumes in front of a bright blue sky and swirling background—would be published in the North American edition. “I felt very happy and excited,” she says.
Annika, who lives in Washington, D.C., is one of 34 children from the U.S. and Canada whose illustrations are featured in the book. The contest, which was open to children ages 7 to 12, received more than 42,000 submissions, according to Scholastic.
In addition to being published, each of the winners got to donate $650 worth of children’s books to any library or school. Annika chose to give the books to Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, where she is in third grade.
Published in November, “The Ickabog” is Rowling’s first children’s book in over a decade. It tells the story of Bert and Daisy, two children on an adventure to learn the truth about a mysterious monster, but Annika says that Lady Eslanda, who loves to read, is her favorite character.
This fall the young artist had the opportunity to meet Rowling on a virtual call with other winners from around the world; the British edition of the book features illustrations by children from the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and India. Annika, who was one of two Americans on the call, calls the experience “a dream come true.”
“I kept asking my mom and dad, ‘Was this a dream or was it reality?’” she laughs.
“The Ickabog” isn’t the first time Annika’s artwork has gotten attention from the public. After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she created a pin in her memory and put it up for sale on Etsy. She also designed a “Vote” button before the 2020 election that quickly sold out. Annika and her family donated the proceeds to the nonpartisan group When We All Vote.
Annika, who takes art classes, is now interested in trying watercolor and oil painting. She’s part of a book club that meets every week and is performing in a production of “Annie” soon. At school, Annika enjoys studying math and science and says she wants to be a robot scientist when she grows up.
“I want to be very clever and brave like the adults in ‘The Ickabog,’” she says.
This story originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Washington FAMILY.