Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Nock Family Circus

The Nock Family Circus
Celestino Piatti and Ursla Huber
translated from German by Barbara Kowel Gollob
Atheneum, 1968


Always intrigued by the circus book, this one is particularly interesting, not only because of the fabulous illustrations by Swiss book designer and graphic artist Piatti, but because it's about a real family and a real circus that was formed in Switzerland in the 18th century. Big Apple Circus star Bello Nock is one descendant from a clan whose roots are still deep in the art form. Now fully out of Switzerland and a few generations in the circus culture of Sarasota, Florida, the Nock family and name is still prevalent throughout. (Though I am no circus historian, merely a children's book lover with the gift of the Google.) I've always found circus families intriguing. A lifestyle and a passion that you're born into. Always moving. Always performing. Though this is a children's book --and by that I mean short and simple-- it does do a good job of painting a picture of the gypsy lives of one circus family, from the makeshift school house to the mobile kitchen.

In the tent where the animals are kept, it is cool and dim and very quiet. The horses are all out in the meadow grazing. That is why school is being held under their green tent. Manuela and Monika are bending over their books doing their spelling. Eric and Sonja are doing their arithmetic. Every now and then the black pony trots by to peek in at them. When the teacher is not looking, Sonja tried to balance her pencil on the tip of her nose.

A wonderful fly-eye view on as tradition that is as mysterious as it is beguiling, and one that is rapidly becoming extinct. In these pages, you can almost smell the sawdust and it's easy to imagine what life would have been like under the big top.

Do yourself a favor and see more of Piatti's lovely work here, here and here. Guaranteed you'll fall in love. I, for one, am setting out right now in search of The Happy Owls book. How have I missed this one!?! Wow!


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9 comments:

M. said...

These are beautiful — I had only ever seen Celestino Piatti's posters before. I love this!

Amy June Bates said...

I LOVE this! We went to a family circus this summer that just this feel. I just found your blog- I can't wait to see more.

Lise said...

I wanted to tell you that I went to the most amazing (and devastating) library book sale this week (they had the libraries of several closing elementary school, and I wanted to rescue every single book! I couldn't stand it!) You were there in spirit as I found books I'd learned about here (How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together, and Nothing Ever Happens on My Block, for example). I kept wondering what would you do--buy them all? I wanted to! Thanks for helping me navigate!

Nan said...

A depiction better than a photo.

Have you seen the artsy, customizable OWL calendar available for free download?

http://www.myowlbarn.com/p/owl-lover-2011-calendar.html

Thanks for serving these daily gems.

Janna said...

Ah, I knew the artist's name sounded familiar. The Happy Owls is a Weston Woods film. I've always been intrigued by old circuses of the past... this book looks wonderful.

Janna said...

Ah, I knew the artist's name sounded familiar. The Happy Owls is a Weston Woods film. I've always been intrigued by old circuses of the past. This book looks wonderful! Great illustrations.

zazienews said...

What a surprise!
Coming back from Frankfurt Fair I see Celestino Piatti on your blog. I'm
Grazia Gotti from Bologna. I run the children's bookstore " Giannino
Stoppani" and the blog Zazie news. In our bookstore there is now a show
dedicated to Celestino Piatti. I will suggest the Bologna Children's Book
Fair to invite you next spring.
I'd like to organized a meeting with the best of children's books on the
web.
best regards
gg

B. Streetman said...

ahhh. library sales... four years of doing this has me better equipped at saying no, but still. I am sitting in my office with books piled all around. obviously i still have issues!

B. Streetman said...

wow! a bookstore with a whole section dedicated!?! I would love to see!

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