Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2008
Translated into Greek, Italian, Romanian
Named one of Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2008”
Italian artist Ceccoli's (The Barefoot Book of Fairy Tales) previous illustrations were dreamy paintings; for this tall-format book, she uses clay models and digital media to create images of eerie immediacy. Each scene has its own quirky depth of field; the porcelain-doll faces of the children jump out with breathtaking clarity. Walls and drapes or the breeches of a rabbit violinist are similarly crisp; the other parts of a composition seem lightly misted. The surreal atmosphere is true to fairy-tale scholar Bernheimer's vision of a girl imprisoned in a marvelous world. The castle inhabited by the girl is inside a glass globe, which is in a museum full of old toys; children who visit the museum crowd around the globe to see the girl. She is lonely; her only visitors come in dreams. "Sometimes," the narrator adds provocatively, "the girl in the castle even dreams about you." The narrator suggests that readers ease the girl's loneliness by pasting a photo of themselves in a gold frame by her bed. Closing the book with a bang-up twist, the author inverts her this-inside-that motif to enshrine the audience's place in the story: "Now in her room and in her dreams, inside the castle inside the museum, inside this book you hold in your hands, you keep her company.... Do you see her? She sees you." Young fans of fantasy will be spellbound.
--Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
"Getting lost in a good book" takes on a whole new meaning in this intriguing and captivating title. In an eclectic toy museum, children are drawn to a snow globe where it is said that, if they look hard enough, they can see the little girl who lives in the castle therein. To their delight, she is visible, as is her entire enchanted world. The girl is lonely when the museum empties, and she dreams of other children visiting her. She awakes with an idea of asking her visitors to leave a photo behind and, as if readers obeyed, the text asks, "Do you see her? She sees you." Using media as varied as clay sculpture and photography, Ceccoli has created a world that beckons young readers inside. The aerial ballet of objects and the playful use of perspective all contribute to the wondrous nature of the place. Children will eagerly enter this special world, pore over the amazing toys, and secretly wish they lived there themselves. This unusual book will jump-start the imaginations of all who are lucky enough to enter it.
--School Library Journal
Quite often, the flap material on a book does little to bring clarity to the material within. This is not, however, the case with The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum (Schwartz Wade Books). This single line tells the story absolutely: Here is an original fairy tale that feels like a dream -- haunting, beautiful, and completely unforgettable. This is one of those rare children’s picture books that just works on every level. Though Kate Bernheimer has never before written for children, her writing is well known and respected and as the editor of Fairy Tale Review, she’s certainly never out of depth with the material she’s chosen here. On the other hand, Nicoletta Ceccoli is a highly regarded illustrator of children’s books. It’s not difficult to see why. In 2006 she was awarded the silver medal by the Society of Illustrators. In 2001 she won the Anderson Prize, awarded annually to Italy’s top children’s book illustrator. Her illustrations for The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum are wonderful. This is work so luminous, it seems backlit even on the page. The details are splendid, as are the colors and the otherwordly quality you see throughout works very well with Bernheimer’s story about a girl trapped within her magical world. The book is recommended for children aged four to eight, but this is a stunning book: it’s my guess many of this edition will end up in the hands of collectors.
The press materials for The Girl In the Castle Inside the Museum predictably describe the book as “whimsical.” But there’s a dark side to whimsy, a Roald Dahl/Neil Gaiman/Tim Burton side that kids and adults alike are drawn towards. That’s what The Girl Inside... so effectively captures, thanks to Nicole Ceccoli’s incredible illustrations.
Ceccoli is an Italian painter whose work often depicts haunting, vaguely menacing childlike worlds. (Mark Ryden and Eva Montanari are other artists in this vein.) For The Girl Inside…, about a tiny girl who lives inside a museum exhibit, Ceccoli creates a fantasy museum of Escher-like labyrinths, clockwork birds, Victorian doll-fairies, and ephemera floating through the air like dust mites. The story is open-ended and mysterious: we never learn how the girl came to live in the museum, only that she’s lonely and needs the reader’s friendship. If the reader is a child who’s spellbound by detailed illustrations, he won’t mind returning her feelings.
–“Creepy in a Good Way,” Book of the Week, Strollerderby