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‘Nic and Nellie’: a classic children’s book

Image courtesy of Astrid Sheckles
Astrid Sheckles  at Eric Carle Friday
Astrid Sheckles is children’s book author and illustrator who lives in Greenfield. She has illustrated several charming books and recently released “Nic and Nellie,” the first children’s book that she has booth written and illustrated. She will be at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst Friday for a discussion that promises to give people insight into how such books go from an idea to reality. All events at this museum are kid-friendly. See “Literary.”

Image courtesy of Astrid Sheckles Astrid Sheckles at Eric Carle Friday Astrid Sheckles is children’s book author and illustrator who lives in Greenfield. She has illustrated several charming books and recently released “Nic and Nellie,” the first children’s book that she has booth written and illustrated. She will be at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst Friday for a discussion that promises to give people insight into how such books go from an idea to reality. All events at this museum are kid-friendly. See “Literary.”

Special to The Recorder

“Nic and Nellie” written and illustrated by Astrid Sheckels (Islandport Press, 32 pages, $17.95)

Every child (and every adult) knows the nervousness that accompanies the knowledge that one is all alone in a new environment. In the first book written as well as illustrated by Greenfield artist Astrid Sheckels, a little girl learns to navigate those waters.

Nic (short for Nicola), the heroine of the engaging “Nic and Nellie,” arrives at the beginning of this colorful book to spend the summer with her grandparents on an island in Maine.

She has visited the island before, but always with her parents and siblings. She is thrilled at the prospect of this summertime adventure … until her mother gets ready to leave her on the island. Suddenly, her grand adventure seems just a bit scary.

Happily, Nic’s beloved dog Nellie stays with her. Nic also has grandparents who understand her dilemma and they gently prod her to explore the island. Nic and Nellie slowly become familiar with the physical beauty around them … and with the sights, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes of Maine (birds, rocks, mud, spruce trees, blueberries, ice cream).

The community in which Nic’s grandparents live, like many communities in our own area, is an old-fashioned but friendly one. Nic and Nellie begin by discovering parts of the island all by themselves. Soon they begin to make friends almost everywhere they go. Eventually, Nic feels so much at home on the island that she may not even want to leave.

Like many classic children’s books, “Nic and Nellie” is a story about learning from one’s environment and growing up (but not growing up too much). Nic’s summer ends up being the summer we all want to remember from our childhoods — a season of sunshine and berries, of play and love, of children and dogs, of bonfires and song and laughter.

This plain but sweet story relies heavily on the author’s illustrations. Sheckels makes Nic, Nellie, and their surroundings realistic. They are also idealized.

The Maine island on which Nic’s grandparents live is achingly beautiful. For Nic and for readers, it becomes a place to be revisited often.

Astrid Sheckels will sign copies of “Nic and Nellie” at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield on Friday, July 19, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and the new Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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