Continuing in appreciation for Nicoletta Ceccoli’s work, I picked up 3 of her picture books at the Library. All of which happen to be published by Barefoot Books who in turn, seem to provide a good catalog of books to browse. They employ authors/illustrators from all over the planet and have a sizable bilingual section.
Those familiar with Ceccoli’s illustrations will notice a difference in these Barefoot Books: the absence of mixed-media collage or her beautiful but eery doll-like characters. Just the same, Ceccoli’s signature is all over these stories. The soft palette and lovely use of color, the lighting. The whimsical voice and the composition that draw the eye into further interest beyond the moment, without pulling the reader away from the author’s own composition.
illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Barefoot Books 2002
In a spectacular seascape, a young boy sails for a distant island where he finds a special friend waiting for him. Who could it be? Children will delight in pointing out the animals and objects that the little boy spies along his journey.~publisher’s comments.
“I spy with my little eye…” The young boy sails the sea accumulating things in his spyglass via a sing-song rhyming game. As if this isn’t an amusement enough, there are other things for the reader to spy along the way–not in the hideous jumble of junk drawers an I Spy book, but a few lovely things here and there.
In a gentle spin on daydreams and boys’ adventures out to sea, the young boy finally arrives at his island to not find wild things waiting, but a much tamer and sweeter friend. They play until it is time for him to go home again. The movement from “I spy with my little eye…” is not completely discarded in the transitions, but revisited via a memory game, “What did I spy with my little eye?” Or is it an invitation to begin the story again?
I would’ve loved to have known about this when Natalya was younger. The illustrations are so pleasing! The words sing themselves from the page, and the gentle adventure is a delightful daydream. An Island in the Sun is a great source of fun activity and for the educational sort it is rife with prepositions and the spatial relationships between things.
Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Barefoot Books, 2003.
If you could make a single wish, what would you wish for? Would you ask for something that would transform your own life, or would you try to take the needs of your family into consideration, too? A humble woodcutter faces this very dilemma when he rescues a faerie one day in the woods. A flash of inspiration provides the answer that makes everyone’s wish come true.~publisher’s comments.
The humble young woodcutter lives in a house with his wife and his aging mother and father. “Life was hard. Old Man Poverty sat on the doorstep and snatched away everything good that came their way” (5). He and his wife could not have a baby and his mother had gone blind, “the world about her like a curtain of darkness” (3).
One day the woodcutter rescued a faerie in the woods who in gratitude gave the young man the only thing he had, a single wish. But what to do? His own fancies take flight about him until he remembers there are others in hardship as well. He seeks his family’s advice and each have desires of their own–and not frivolous ones either.
The Faerie’s Gift is about Patience, Ingenuity, and ultimately Unselfishness. As the faerie was exceedingly generous, so may be the woodcutter, who, notably, found a way to gift all the others with their desires; and the happiness was all his. And really, he seemed to have learned unselfishness from those around him, as well as patience. His mother raised him, and his father was spare in speech but wise when he did advise his son. There are all kinds of ways this story addresses the unselfish act while still being an enjoyable story to read–not to mention look at.
The Faerie’s Gift is laid out in two small images atop and below text and a full illustration on the facing page. Little Red Riding Hood below is formatted the same way. The two images capture the action of the text, and the facing page a portrait that would signify the moment. It is a lovely way to accompany the author’s storytelling. Ceccoli could easily overtake the text. As it is, her work embodies the spirit of the story, is quietly emotive, and ever breathing in the soft unassuming light.
Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Barefoot Books, 2004.
Unlike the recent fractured-fairy-tale versions that make Red Riding Hood a strong hero who rescues herself, this picture book dramatizes the archetypal story of the loss of innocence. Red Riding Hood is a sweet, overprotected child. She always keeps to the path and does what grown-ups say–until one day she meets the wolf, who shows her the beauty of the woods and makes her stray. It’s all shown with fun and uproar: the greedy beast rushes ahead and gobbles up Grandma and the little girl, and the woodcutter rescues them. But Ceccoli’s beautiful, soft-toned pictures in acrylics, pencils, and oil pastels focus on the wolf’s seductive power, his sleek body circling the child enraptured by a world she never saw before. On the last page, the child is in the cozy kitchen with Grandma, but outside the shadowy forest beckons. The story is very child friendly; there’s no analysis. But the author is a Jungian scholar, and folklorists and students of children’s literature will want to talk about the underlying coming-of-age journey. Hazel Rochman, Copyright © American Library Association
Hazel Rochman sums it up quite perfectly, wording my own response better than the few notes I’d made after the read. While the story is old and familiar, the decision on Evetts-Secker’s part to forgo the ‘fractured-fairytale’ route is of interest, and refreshment. Pairing her story with Ceccoli’s enchanting style is another brilliant move (on somebody’s part).
The only dark and threatening aspect is the large smoke-like wolf who is somewhat serpentine and en[w]rapturing. Flowers aren’t a bad idea, nor are small adventures (like walking to grandma’s house). The wolf is hardly unreasonable in his whispers to the young girl, but still, she’d had her instructions, it would have been best to stick to them.
In a cozy cottage on the outskirts of a sheltered village there once lived a little girl who was quiet and good. No one noticed her, until one day she appeared in a bright red cape with ribbons to fasten the hood under her chin. Now, people turned their heads on the village street and everyone delighted to see her. From that day on, she was known as Little Red riding Hood.
The grandmother made her the cape by the way. Ms. Rochman is right, “folklorists and students of children’s literature will want to talk about the underlying coming-of-age journey” from page one. Her subtly beneath the calm exterior, the toned-down violence, and gentle sway of words is echoed in Ceccoli’s work. Little Red Riding Hood is rich retelling of a classic cautionary tale.
Ms. Ceccoli’s site.
*first image “Incubi Celeste” by Nicoletta Ceccoli