McElligott, Matt 1968- (Matthew McElligott)

views updated

McElligott, Matt 1968- (Matthew McElligott)


Born December 8, 1968, in Albany, NY; married; wife's name Christy (a Web designer); children: one son. Education: Alfred University, B.F.A., 1990; State University of New York at Buffalo, M.A.H., 1992.


Home—Albany, NY.


Children's book author and illustrator. Sage College of Albany, Albany, NY, assistant professor, beginning 1998, now associate professor of graphic design. Visiting author at schools and libraries.


Graphic Artists Guild (past president of Albany, NY, chapter).

Awards, Honors

Texas Library Association 2 x 2 listee, for Bean Thirteen; Charlotte Award nomination, 2008, for Blackbeard and the Birthday Suit.



The Truth about Cousin Ernie's Head, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Uncle Frank's Pit, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.

Absolutely Not, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2004.

Backbeard and the Birthday Suit, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2006.

Backbeard: Pirate for Hire, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2007.

Bean Thirteen, G.P. Putnam's (New York, NY), 2007.

The Lion's Share, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2009.

Author of Pen & Link e-newsletter.


Steve Patschke, The Spooky Book, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 1999.


A teacher of illustration and graphic design on the college level, Matt McElligott has also made a name for himself as the author and illustrator of several humorous children's books. "I've been drawing for as long as I can remember," McElligott explained on his home page. Reviewing his picture book The Lion's Share for Publishers Weekly, a contributor dubbed McElligott "a triple threat: a sturdy storyteller, a stylish draftsman, and a thoughtful wit who makes math funny."

In Uncle Frank's Pit, one of McElligott's first books for children, he presents a "story of eccentricity run amok," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the book, a boy's quirky uncle comes to visit and soon busies himself in digging a giant hole in the family's backyard. Although the man at first claims to be digging for dinosaur bones, the giant hole eventually becomes large enough to serve as a small apartment for the freeloader. The Publishers Weekly contributor also cited the "peculiar humor" in McElligott's tale, concluding that the story's "skewed wit and deadpan delivery" is similar to the dry slapstick of British television.

In Absolutely Not, McElligott uses pencil, watercolor, and a computer to illustrate his original story about Gloria and Frieda, two bugs who find their after-dinner stroll cut short by Frieda's fears. According to a Kirkus Reviews writer, the reassuring picture book for young children combines a "whimsical" story with "deft visual pacing." In School Library Journal, Liza Graybill concluded that in Absolutely Not McElligott provides children with "a rare chance to synthesize verbal and graphic clues and figure out for themselves what's what." Another original tale, Bean Thirteen, uses the cogitations of two bugs to provide what School Library

Journal critic Maura Bresnahan described as a "humorous introduction to the concept of division." In the story Ralph and Flora star as hungry insects who hope to find a way to share thirteen tasty beans equally among their friends. Noting the book's brightly colored art, Bresnahan added that McElligott's "slightly off-kilter perspectives" in Bean Thirteen "will appeal to children."

A scruffy, grubby, and otherwise unkempt buccaneer is the subject of Backbeard and the Birthday Suit and Backbeard: Pirate for Hire, two books that combine a humorous story with McElligott's colorful cartoon art. In Backbeard and the Birthday Suit the hairy captain of the ship Five o'Clock Shadow makes a surprising purchase during a shopping trip to buy a new outfit for his birthday party, while the sequel finds the pirate captain banned from his ship and demoted to landlubber because of his flamboyant costume. The author/illustrator's ability to combine scanned photographs and fabric with hand-drawn "detailed cartoon characters" in Backbeard and the Birthday Suit injects a "vintage flavor" into a "witty tale," according to Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld. In Kirkus Reviews a critic dubbed Backbeard a "knee-slapper" with "hilarious" illustrations, and School Library Journal critic Madeline Walton-Hadlock cited the "conversational tone and silly subject matter" of McElligott's piratical picture book.

On his home page, McElligott discussed where he gets the ideas for his children's books. "Often, an idea will come to me from something I read, or maybe a movie I saw," he explained. "It could be from a conversation I had with someone, or from someplace I visited on a trip…. But most of my ideas seem to have one thing in common: at first they don't work. Usually, I'll be very excited about a new idea, and I can't wait to get started on it. About halfway through something will happen—I'll lose interest, or maybe confidence—and I'll put the whole project aside. If the idea was any good, it will reemerge somewhere down the road, maybe in a few weeks, maybe in a few years. Somehow, the truly good ideas always float to the surface eventually."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 1999, Lauren Peterson, review of The Spooky Book, p. 456; April 15, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Backbeard and the Birthday Suit, p. 53; January, 2009, review of The Lion's Share.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1999, review of The Spooky Book, p. 26; September, 2007, Hope Morrison, review of Bean Thirteen, p. 40.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Absolutely Not, p. 273; March 15, 2006, review of Backbeard and the Birthday Suit, p. 296; August 1, 2007, review of Backbeard.

Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1999, review of The Spooky Book, p. 48; December 15, 2008, review of The Lion's Share.

School Library Journal, April, 2004, Liza Graybill, review of Absolutely Not, p. 118; April, 2006, Grace Oliff, review of Backbeard and the Birthday Suit, p. 112; June, 2007, Maura Bresnahan, review of Bean Thirteen, p. 114; November, 2007, Madeline Walton-Hadlock, review of Backbeard: Pirate for Hire, p. 95.


Matt McElligott Home Page, (December 15, 2008).

McElligott Graphics Web Design Web site, (December 15, 2008).

Sage College of Albany Web site, (December 15, 2008), "Matthew McElligott."

About this article

McElligott, Matt 1968- (Matthew McElligott)

Updated About content Print Article