So, What Do You Call a Pack of Chimeras?*

h1 April 13th, 2010 by jules

“A dazzlement of Quetzalcoatls / An arch of rainbow snakes”
(Click to enlarge.)

I’m making a quick art stop this morning to show you some spreads from the beautiful new picture book from Jacqueline K. Ogburn and Italian illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli, titled A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts, to be released next month by Houghton Mifflin. I’ve got an early copy and contacted Nicoletta about sharing some art from it. (You may remember that she visited 7-Imp in 2008, and in fact, she shared in that post some spreads from this book, telling me at that time that the book was an interesting theme for her.)

The book is exactly what the sub-title tells you, a collection of clever, evocative terms Ogburn conjured up for over thirty magical beings — from kirin (“a judgment of”) to were-jaguars (“a slinking of”) to minotaurs (“an amazement of”) to thunderbirds (“a storm of”) to just about everything else under, over, around, and in between. Ceccoli’s art gives the book a dream-like, ethereal feel. Here’s the cover art:

Kirkus wrote about the title:

Every figure is pretty, but the illustrator staves off preciosity by injecting plenty of drama into her compositions — like a scary “riddle of sphinx” gazing down clinically on a small pilgrim or a ship of ancient design being attacked simultaneously by a “vengeance of harpies,” a “tangle of gorgons” and a (bare-breasted) “chord of sirens.” Enthralling fare for addicts of myth and fantasy…

The book closes with notes on each magical creature and—my favorite part—opens with a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass: “‘Well, now that we have seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, ‘if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?'”

“The publisher initially was not sure if I would fit…this text, as I {have} always illustrated…kinder and sweeter stories,” Nicoletta told me. “But I always loved monsters…Thanks to Kate O’Sullivan and Cara Llewyllyn for their direction on this book and for the chance they gave me. It was a pleasure to work on it with them.”

A gorgeous book. Here’s some more art from it (with the text not included). Enjoy, and thanks again to Nicoletta for sharing…

“A flame of feng hwangs / A resurrection of phoenix / A flash of firebirds”
(Click to enlarge.)

“An avalanche of abominable snowmen / A flurry of yetis / A thicket of Bigfoots”
(Click to enlarge.)

“A storm of thunderbirds / A thundering of rocs”
(Click to enlarge.)

More of the cover art, “an initial test,” Nicoletta told me.
“I was then required to brighten the background colouration.”

(Click to enlarge.)

* * * * * * *

A DIGNITY OF DRAGONS: COLLECTIVE NOUNS FOR MAGICAL BEASTS by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli © 2010. Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA. Spreads used with permission of illustrator. All rights reserved.

* * * * * * *

* Answer: A “confusion of chimeras.” But of course.

19 comments to “So, What Do You Call a Pack of Chimeras?*”

  1. Goodness gracious, I love her art. This reminds me to order all her books from the library (yet again)….thanks for sharing this wonderful new beauty.

  2. Wow! I have to have this book! I’m drooling! Thanks for sharing this. “Confusion of chimeras”–perfect.

  3. Hi Jules! Thanks for sharing this preview, I believe Nicoletta’s art is just perfect for this lind of stories.. I actually saw her originals a couple of times, in Bologna, and they have just that fairyesque atmosphere and that subtlety that makes them perfect for a refined book… Well, I do confess: I love her art! 🙂
    Thanks to you, as usual, for all this. I just wish you were my neighbour to share tea and Kidslit-chats whenever possible!

  4. What gorgeous monsters! I love the richness of Nicoletta Ceccoli’s paintings!!!!!

  5. Thanks, you all! Isn’t it gorgeous?

    Cris — me, too! Now, wouldn’t that be fun. Oh, and I’m jealous you saw some of her originals.

  6. I know a lot of kids who will go CRAZY for this book. Me, too, of course.

  7. Adrienne, it’d be so fun to team it with Julie Larios’ and Julie Paschkis’ Imaginary Menagerie. In fact, my oldest was making comparisons between them. Throw in The Monsterologist, and it’d be even more fun.

  8. Stunning! Thank You for this wonderful information.
    I shall add this to my list of books to purchase:)

  9. So so gorgeous!

  10. MASSIVE book want!!!

  11. Book author here: I’m glad to hear that you are so excited about the book. I also think Nicoletta did a fabulous job illustrating it. She was brillant in her arrangement of the various groups of magical beasts, as none of the spreads look crowded or chaotic. Thank you for featuring it.

  12. How beautiful! I love how it is colorful, but in a subtle way. Very nice.

  13. Hey Jules, that would be big fun! 🙂
    Well, as for originals, you should come sometime to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair: that is incredible fun, all those illustrators from all over the world!!! And all the original art, and all the exhibits… this year there has been an AMAZING exhibit with the originals of Mattotti’s Hansel and Gretel… if you haven’t seen that book you should, it’s just amazing: all in black and white, when you see the originals you can really see all the little games he played painting black over black, giving movement and life to each painting… I was touched when I saw those. It’s almost impossible to reproduce those effects in print, and the Publishing house who produced the book is an excellent one. Well, I got lost in my thoughts, the substance of all this was: do come to Bologna next year! 🙂

  14. I was overjoyed when she moved in to the children’s book arena. Beautiful work. I think a field trip to Bologna is in order. I’ll do the name tags.

  15. Cris, Bill: IF ONLY. Can we start a scholarship fund so I can go?

  16. P.S. Hi, Jacqueline! Thanks for writing this book.

  17. What a lovely looking and sounding book. Collective nouns always have some sort of magic about them don’t they – a parliament of owls, an exaltation of larks. I can imagine how this book could spark a great game with my kids of coming up with new collection nouns!

  18. Jules, why don’t you just see if you can find a nicely priced flight… then we shall think about the rest! 🙂

  19. […] Animals in Groups from A to Z. And, it occurs to me just now, wouldn’t it be fun to pair with this, seeing as how both books feature collective nouns for creatures (whether real or imaginary)? Woot! […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.