394237Horns & Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson

Illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

357 pages of a 7.59×5.50x.56 in. book.

I have a list of Authors of whom I try to keep track. A similar list of Illustrators is fairly non-existent. Reading more and more comics, I try to keep track of Artists, and I was better at minding names when the daughter was still in picture books all the time. I might should make a list.

Yes, I am aware that just because the Illustrations are good this does not mean the story is, and vice versa.   But it could be useful in making an unexpected find. And then there is the fact that I cover shop anyway. A list could add efficiency to my browsing.

I am going to start with Nicoletta Ceccoli. I am two for two with this Illustrator. When I was browsing the Juvenile Fiction aisles, Horns & Wrinkles was set aside in order to catch the eye of a shorter passerby. 3383484I had read P.J. Bracegirdle’s Joy of Spooking: Fiendish Deeds and enjoyed it thoroughly. Perhaps this made Ceccoli’s work more favorable to my mind? but my eye was attuned and I snatched Joseph Helgerson’s Horns & Wrinkles off the shelf.

As for The Joy of Spooking, there is a newer cover to go with the differing cover of the recently released second book in the series. I have to say, I wouldn’t have picked up this series if I’d been approached with these newer covers… I like silhouettes and all. And the colors do call Halloween to mind. (a bit busy though, isn’t it? and not nearly as creepy–or am I pouting a bit?)

We shall see where this listing of Illustrators takes me, but I already spied a few more beautifully illustrated covers of Ceccoli’s that have intriguing stories attached.

And well, S–do you see? She illustrated an Italo Calvino!!

A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts by Jacqueline Ogburn

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer.

Here is Nicoletta Ceccoli’s site in which to bask.


I mentioned two for two. I did so much enjoy Horns & Wrinkles. Helgerson writes a charmingly inventive story set along a “stretch of river [that] is a queer old chunk of water” (4). Yep, the story is set along a quaint (?) stretch of the Mississippi river between the Minnesota Bluffs and the Wisconsin Bluffs. There is a map of the area included, and an Afterword with directions to Blue Wing, Minnesota in case you’ve a mind to check out any “rivery” occurrences for yourself.

Claire, our 12 year old narrator and protagonist, encounters all sorts of strange creatures; most of them unpleasant. The most foul beast would be her cousin Duke who is a year younger and a head taller. He likes to bully her, and really, do we feel bad when his relentless bullying gets him trouble–trouble in the form of a slow and painful transformation into a rhinoceros? What is truly problematic is that Duke’s new horn and its perilous consequences affect more than just himself; thus the adventure that ensues.

It is to the storytellers credit to create a bully that we can feel a minutia of compassion for and yet still get to unrepentantly disapprove of his wherewithal. Duke is exasperating without being overly–close, but not quite. The same can be said of the River Trolls with whom Duke becomes friends. They fall just short of too much.

Helgerson writes with all the whimsy and wit of a good fairy tale; and he writes it pretty well. He certainly weaves a nice story that moves along smoothly and unpredictably. I wasn’t sure about the short chapters, but they created occasion for more illustrations (however simple).

I know there are a lot of books out there chock full of magical creatures and plucky protagonists fleshing out their contemporary landscapes with ensorcelled adventures. I found Horns & Wrinkles to be a bit more inventive and amusing than most.

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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