Books by Nicoletta Ceccoli

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Lisa Schroeder
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 29, 2016

"Lacks the nuance of such exemplars as Astrid Lindgren's Ronia, the Robber's Daughter (1983) or Sharon Creech's The Castle Corona (2007). (Fantasy. 8-12)"
Will a beautiful young girl locked up in a tower be an ingredient in the spell to fulfill a wicked queen's wish for beauty, or will she be the queen's undoing? Read full book review >
THE BOO! BOOK by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 7, 2012

"Although much talent is evident in this creative pairing, the result lacks overall appeal for the picture-book crowd; save for children with patience and a taste for the surreal. (Picture book. 4-7)"
An engaging narrator, together with magical illustrations that often conjure surreal scenes, lets readers in on all there is to know about haunted books and how to be a good owner of one. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2010

Ceccoli's art gives this companion to James Lipton's classic Exaltation of Larks ("ultimate edition" 1991) a distinctly and appropriately otherworldly look. Ogburn's evocative, self-invented collective terms for more than three-dozen magical creatures—such beasts as feng hwangs, quetzalcoatls and rainbow snakes join the usual Eurocentric suspects—float weightlessly on each spread next to groups of large-eyed, smoothly rounded humans and nonhumans awash in faint, subtle color changes. Every figure is pretty, but the illustrator staves off preciosity by injecting plenty of drama into her compositions—like a scary "riddle of sphinx" gazing down clinically on a small pilgrim or a ship of ancient design being attacked simultaneously by a "vengeance of harpies," a "tangle of gorgons" and a (bare-breasted) "chord of sirens." Enthralling fare for addicts of myth and fantasy, with short background notes on each type of creature at the end. (Picture book/reference. 11-15)Read full book review >
ADVENTURE
Released: Nov. 10, 2009

Coincidence, magic, angels, demons and flat characters muddle through the third and final volume of this series. The disparate elements of the first two novels come together: Odyllic Force is the Sleeping Giant of mythology and might be able to stop Dr. Sigmundus, who wants to end the world by building a bridge from hell (Nakara) to the Resurrection Fields, where the dead joyfully move on. Dante segues from central to secondary character (he is disembodied and stuck in a bird) while Bea takes over as primary mover (helped considerably by running into her physician father). Thinly sketched characters and continually murky world building, sentences that tell without humor or style and entire sections (Nyro and Osman's journey) that have no discernible bearing on the remainder of the story make this slow going. Readers who persevered through the second volume will be pleased to have pieces come together even if the literal deus ex machina renders any prior investment moot. Keaney displays some interesting if bleak ideas; it's to be hoped that next time he can do them justice. (Fantasy. 12-16)Read full book review >
HOW ROBIN SAVED SPRING by Debbie Ouellet
ADVENTURE
Released: April 1, 2009

An original pourquoi tale presents Lady Winter, who's distinctly reluctant to yield to slumbering Sister Spring, and a bevy of animals who work to thwart her. She knits cold white blankets, one to keep Sister Spring abed and the others to use on the first creatures who try to wake her, Bear and Caterpillar. Maple Tree, Ladybug and Skunk all come to different griefs before Robin flies high to Mother Sun for her light, successfully waking Sister Spring but burning his breast in the process. There's a little too much going on here, and young readers will wonder where Summer and Fall might figure in this family. But Ceccoli supplies some beautifully Renaissance compositions and a lovely pale palette that modulates beautifully from winter to spring, which compensate pretty well for narrative weaknesses. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE INSIDE THE MUSEUM by Kate Bernheimer
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 12, 2008

The princess-like girl of the title is lonely within her idyllic, sequestered world until she is visited by children, either in dreams or in reality. Her solution is to address readers directly and ask for a picture to hang in her solitary castle to "keep her company in a magical world." Written by an eloquent fairy-tale writer-scholar and illustrated by a much-honored picture-book artist, this defies easy definition. Clearly "the museum" represents the metaphorical archive where fairy-tale collections regrettably gather dust, and this enigmatic tale is a plea for children to enter their immutable worlds within worlds, lest the tales be isolated and lost forever. The text is grandly supported by Ceccoli's chimerically beautiful paintings rendered in acrylic, which depict the girl's phantasmagorical world. A bit of a mystical allegory, but also an invitation too good to decline for the fairy-tale lovers among us. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
OSCAR AND THE MOONCATS by Lynda Gene Rymond
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 22, 2007

What is it about cats and moons? Here Oscar, who loves high places, takes a mighty leap from the rooftop and actually reaches the Moon—where he finds lots of silvery feline playmates and a crater filled with sweet cream left by a passing cow. Just in time he also finds out that tasting that cream would make him forget his beloved boy back on Earth. That would never do, so home he goes though, as usual, getting down is much harder than going up. Pairing a small striped cat and a lad oddly topped with short blue dreads, Ceccoli incorporates photographs, collage elements and figures resembling small plastic toys into elaborately worked digital starscapes that have a convincingly 3-D look. Young readers who wonder where cats go at night will find this an equally free-range alternative to the likes of Bruce Ingman's Night on the Tiles (1999), Helen Landalf's Secret Night Life of Cats (1998), illustrated by Mark Rimland, or David Almond's Kate, the Cat and the Moon (2005), illustrated by Stephen Lambert. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Sept. 25, 2007

Dystopia and allusions to The Divine Comedy make for a heady combination, but much of this first-in-a-trilogy fails to go beyond setup. Dante and Bea were raised on the asylum island of Tarnagar in a world where everyone must follow the teachings of the mysterious Dr. Sigmundus. Tarnagar houses those not controlled by Ichor. When a mysterious new prisoner arrives who knew Dante's inmate mother, Dante learns she was a leader of the rebels who fight against Sigmundus's totalitarian regime and he, along with privileged Bea, escape Tarnagar to join them. The final third of the novel really gets going: The rebels, Dante's experiments with Odyllic force (a mysterious power that can reshape reality) and a confrontation with Dr. Sigmundus keep the pace brisk. Keaney's style—simple, sometimes terse sentence structure, more telling than showing—make for a fast if occasionally pedestrian read. Those who enjoy books like The Giver or the Uglies trilogy will want to give this a try, and will be drawn into the world enough to wait for the action despite some inconsistencies of time line and backstory. (author's note) (Fantasy. YA) Read full book review >
FIREFIGHTERS IN THE DARK by Dashka Slater
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 2, 2006

Ceccoli's beautiful, lyrical illustrations, in acrylics and pastels, give a mythic quality to Slater's tale of firefighting derring-do, told by a little girl snugly asleep in her bed and imagining where the sirens are going. The fire truck pulls up to a castle, set on fire by a dragon who hastily blew on his potatoes to cool them. Next, they go to Mexico to help a lady who ignited a house fire by eating a very hot pepper. Then, it's on to a baby boy who bounced so high on his bed he flew out the window. In between these exploits, the foursome (King, Penelope, Almondine and Bruce) eat their favorite foods and wash off the ash from their work. And sometimes, King puts his ladder up against the little girl's tall pink house, climbs to her window and gives her a hose to spray away the fire in the stars. Endearingly, Slater captures a young child's view of the world and a very different role for firefighters than usually seen by this audience. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
HORNS AND WRINKLES by Joseph Helgerson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 11, 2006

On a stretch of the Mississippi River between Blue Wing, Minn. and Big Rock, Wis., magic still works thanks to a bluewing fairy's sacrifice. Each time Claire's cousin Duke bullies her, he is cursed to become a rhino, starting with the horn and progressing each time he bullies. Things go downhill from there. Their families are turned to stone, and the two are embroiled in an ages-old curse feud between the Rock Trolls and the River Trolls. After much adventuring, Claire and Duke face off against Bo the Great Rock Troll in different ways with quite different results, and everything turns out well for most. Helgerson's debut is a confusing, nonsensical mish-mash. The character quirks are forced, the narration is overly chatty and much of the humor is lame. The first-person narrator frequently knows the motivations of other characters, and the magic is silly and arbitrary. There's plenty of imagination here, but little logic or thought. Ceccoli's jewel-eyed spot illustrations don't make this a worthwhile purchase. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
THE VILLAGE OF BASKETEERS by Lynda Gene Rymond
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 2, 2005

Glowing, fanciful illustrations animate Rymond's plainly told tale of a village assaulted by a wind so wild that animals have to be tied down and the Moon is blown "out of the clouds." Desperate, the villagers try what they know, weaving two huge wind traps in succession that are instantly blasted into the sky. But then, third time's the charm, as the tiny basket woven by two children and lined with lamb's wool draws down the blustery but tired wind at last for a snooze. Though Ceccoli doesn't quite capture the wind's force, her richly hued scenes of rounded objects and animals, many showing unusual colors or patterns, tumbling upward as human residents struggle to keep their feet, and then at the end celebrate—quietly—their relief, evoke a sense of surreal mystery and wonder. A good choice for windy day storytimes or Ana Juan fans. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD by Josephine Evetts-Secker
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2004

Luminous colors, a deft combination of visual delicacy and richness, and a touch of surrealism make Little Red Riding Hood's adventure a glowing feast for the eyes. Ceccoli uses acrylics, pencils, and oil pastels on canvas to create entrancing art with a soft texture. The canvas underneath is faintly and beautifully visible. The wolf curls around three sides of a page, serpent-like, almost surrounding Red. As they saunter down the path, fantastical trees tip precariously and diagonally above them. Peculiar tree shapes and impossible angles of growth reveal the potential danger of Red's decision to stray from the path. Evetts-Secker's clear, thoughtful text has Red bringing Granny "some fresh bread, some new butter and some sweet elderberry wine," and the ending is Grimm, not Perrault: a woodcutter is savior, and Red fills the wolf's belly with rocks. Gorgeous and shining with light throughout. (Picture book/fairytale. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE FAERIE’S GIFT by Tanya Robyn Batt
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2003

A pretty tale "found in many forms across many cultures" wrapped around a lovely message about wishes and words. A poor woodcutter who lives with his childless wife, his blind mother, and his silent, elderly father saves a faerie from the talons of a hawk. The faerie man, in gratitude, places in the woodcutter's hand a single, small, bright wish. The woodcutter carries it home, where his wife begs him to wish for a child, his mother implores him to wish for the return of her sight, and his father insists he needs to wish for gold to keep them warm and fed at last. The woodcutter walks "the day to its end" and finally finds just the right wish to bring happiness to everyone. Ceccoli's (An Island in the Sun, not reviewed) full-page paintings (in acrylics and oil pastels) face text pages decorated with head- and tail-pieces: the colors have the warm texture and deep color of pastels with the clear edges and three-dimensional solidity of acrylics. She elongates her characters and often paints them from two angles like Egyptian tomb figures, stretching spatial planes and architectural forms to give her images a rich, dreamlike quality. A different sort of wishing story, not three, but only one and what thinking hard outside expectations might bring. (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)Read full book review >