Although I have neither children nor plans to have them -- in fact, I'm not terribly comfortable around children -- I adore children's books. Picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, you name it. There's a certain freedom and beauty, and sometimes dignity, to children's books that can't always be found elsewhere.
On a recent trip to Denver, a friend introduced me to the Tattered Cover, a lovely independent bookstore in an old-ish building complete with creaking, sloping floors and comfortable furniture everywhere. And in the children's section I came across this lovely book and had to buy it: The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, written by Kate Bernheimer and illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli. A tiny girl lives in a castle inside a glass globe inside a museum that seems to house strange toys and other oddities, and children come to try to catch a glimpse of the girl inside the castle. It's a sweet, slightly recursive story (there's a reference to "this book you hold in your hands") that I very much enjoyed.
But it was the illustrations that I fell in love with. The style seems familiar and strange, and although I haven't googled Nicoletta Ceccoli yet, I feel certain that I've seen her work before. This art is luminous, surreal, and fantastic. There are dice with wings fluttering around the castle, and stuffed animals and rocking horses with button eyes. The children in the museum have big eyes that are solemn and intelligent. You have to look at the book several times to take it all in.
Even if you don't have children, maybe you have nieces and nephews. Some child in your life will love this book. Or you can just buy it for yourself.
And if this book doesn't make at least the short list for the Caldecott Award next year, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Well, aunt. Read more!