Monday, February 24, 2014

Reading: The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum

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Written by Kate Bernheimer, The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum appears to be a treasure.  When I saw this book, I instantly judged it by its beautiful cover - a young girl peering curiously at a miniature castle with a small figurine of a girl standing at the top, her hair swaying the breeze.  After reading the book, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in the story, as I was simply expecting more.  However, this book would certainly be appropriate for kindergarteners and allows for interaction that will make it a personal book for many young readers.  The illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli, however, make The Girl in the Castle a memorable book indeed that young art enthusiasts will enjoy taking time to admire. 

This story, told as a fairy tale with the famous opening "Once upon a time," tells about a girl that lives in a castle inside of a museum.  Children come and press against the glass of the display, hoping to get a glimpse of the small girl that they have all heard about.  When the children go home, the girl inside the castle feels lonely and dreams that child visitors to the museum come back to visit her and play in the castle.  Suddenly, the girl has an idea!  If you, the reader, put your picture in a picture frame illustrated on the castle wall, the girl will never feel lonely!  The last few lines say, "You keep her company in a magical world.  Do you see her?  She sees you."  Personally, I find the last line to be a little bit, er, creepy, if you will. But it's a perfect prelude for a mysterious film adaptation! 
Children crowd around to see the girl inside the

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum opens itself up to many questions.  First of all, what kind of museum is it?  It seems to showcase only interesting toys that children will delight in viewing.  No video games.  No I-pods.  No computers.  All of these modern day play things have been replaced with wind-up clowns, toy trains, flying airplanes, elephant puppets, and handcrafted dollhouses.  How did the girl get inside of the castle?  Why is she in there all alone?  Will she ever get out?  If so, where would she go?  What would she do? Does she have a mom and dad?  What is she made from?  There are so many more questions that arise after reading this book, thus it is a thought-provoking read for young students and a gateway for many writing prompts.  Still, I would have enjoyed the story if there was more of a plot or more interaction between the girl inside the castle and her visitors.  I understand that the author intended this book for younger audiences, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the story, or lack thereof.

However, the best aspects of this book are the beautiful illustrations that breathe life into the story.  Looking at the pictures, I get lost in the vivid colors and luminous characters.  There appears to be a light shining on each page, and attention has been paid to the smallest of details, such as freckles and hair barrettes.  There is a dreamlike quality to the full-bleed illustrations, which begin on the end pages, perhaps hinting to the fact that this story is, of course, an original fairy tale.  After doing a little research, I learned that the illustrator is from Italy and has received numerous accolades for her work.  After reading this book, I can see why and hope to acquire more books with Ms. Cocceli's work. 

Even though the story was not particularly fulfilling, there are many activities to do in the classroom to extend it.  The stunning illustrations more than compensated for my disappointment in this book, and I would be anxious to see if my students would find the ending to be startling or sweet.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy pages filled aesthetic delight.

1 comment:

  1. The illustrations are beautiful. I wonder what how she created them?