Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum

Article by Scott Tingley - March 02, 2008

The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum is one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I have seen in an awfully long time.

I usually don’t cut to the chase like this, but sometimes I don’t need to get cute with a book. In this instance I will put the goofiness aside and say that in a million years I would not be able to tell you how artist Nicoletta Ceccoli created these amazing pictures. They look like photographs of porcelain dolls (really pretty ones, not the really creepy ones) specially manufactured just for this one book. I could also say that Ceccoli found a portal to another world inhabited by beautiful, living porcelain dolls, but that would be too comic-booky for my kid’s book blog and it would let in too much goofiness, and I said there would be no goofiness. Ceccoli has illustrated a magnificent world with a magical castle filled with living toys and one lonely girl. Magnificent.

So I like the pictures. So what? Any elementary teacher that has been around for a while knows that you can get really well written books with sub-par pictures and beautifully illustrated books written with grinding dullness. No fancy pictures can make up for a boring story. So, has The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum writer Kate Bernheimer created a tale worthy of its pictures or not? Sort of, yes. It is hard to compete with the pictures, but I like the story a lot, and so does my little girl. It is nearly as haunting as its pictures. It is an imaginative new fairy tale that uses a couple of clever tricks to engage its young readers (for instance, here is the picture my three year old daughter drew of herself to put in the frame in the book. It was a nice touch that she enjoyed). The whole thing is a little disturbing in an Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz sort of way. I think when I share this with my grade three class that will actually be one of the main draws. Kids like a bit of edge, a bit of darkness every now and then in their literature and movies. It helps them make sense of the world around them and they will be able to relate to the loneliness of the girl.

Wild, creepy, good stuff. It looks like a book only girls would like, and they may be the target audience, but this thing is so odd that I think boys would be drawn in as well. A sure hit with girls, and maybe a bit more of a hard-sell with the guys.

· Price: $19.99

· ISBN: 978-0-375-93606-7 (0-375-93606-8)

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luddite75 said...

Would the illustrations have existed without the story? I assume the illustrator created the images from the words. So they are at least as important- if not more so- then the pictures. A truly enchanting and beautiful book. A keeper!

CitC said...

Thanks for the comments. I would say that in most books the writing is more important, but in this case they are such a good fit that, in my opinion, neither would be as good without the other.