cover image The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum

Kate Bernheimer, , illus. by Nicoletta Ceccoli. . Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83606-0

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. Ages 8-up. (Feb.)