Book Bag: new books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Angela DiTerlizzi; ‘The Storyteller of Damascus’ by Rafik Schami

Published: 12/6/2018 5:04:53 PM


Written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

Simon and Schuster

When it comes to conjuring fantasy worlds, few do it better than Tony DiTerlizzi. The Amherst illustrator has been widely recognized for his work in children’s books like “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. He’s created all manner of imaginary creatures over the years — fairies, trolls, dwarves, elves and other figures.

DiTerlizzi is also a respected children’s author who won a Caldecott Medal for his 2002 picture book “The Spider and the Fly.” In his newest book, “The Broken Ornament,” he offers a more straightforward narrative, in a holiday tale that also embraces some magic.

Jack is a young boy excited not just about Christmas but making this year’s holiday “the best ever.” That means everything must be bigger and brighter — more ornaments on the tree, more decorations on his family’s front lawn, and a bigger Christmas tree because “Santa needs more room underneath to leave us more presents!”

Trouble comes when Jack insists on putting one more glittery ornament on the tree. His mother says “no!” and then leaves the room sobbing after the ornament shatters on the floor when Jack accidently drops it.

A mysterious, shimmering figure appears above the broken shards: a mischievous fairy named Tinsel who’s happy to grant Jack his wishes for more Christmas excess — reindeer, marching nutcrackers, rowdy snowmen — but who also shows him a glimpse of why his mother was so upset. Now it’s up to Jack to try and make things right with some real Christmas spirit and love.

“The Broken Ornament,” which features a bit of a retro, Norman Rockwell-ish look (and a touch of anime), offers a timely message as well, Publishers Weekly says: “The author delivers a sound, easily relatable lesson about the perils of greed — and the essence of Christmas — as Jack devises a way to make amends in the story’s heartwarming finale.”



By Angela DiTerlizzi

Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill

Beach Lane Books

There’s more than one talented DiTerlizzi in Amherst. Angela DiTerlizzi, Tony’s better half, is the author of nine books for very young readers, and her rhyming text and bright storylines have won recognition from several outlets; Buzzfeed named “Some Bugs,” done with illustrator Brendan Wenzel, one of the best picture books of 2013.

In her newest book, “Just Add Glitter,” DiTerlizzi relates the tale of a young girl with a handmade crown who at the start of the story looks out her window at a drab, rainy landscape. But what’s this? A letter carrier has left a mysterious package on the front step; turns out it’s filled with bottles of glitter.

Soon the young protagonist is adding gobs of sparkly color to her crown, her house and the pages of the book. But, much like Jack discovers in “The Broken Ornament,” there’s a lesson here about more not necessarily being better, and that there’s a line between creativity and simple excess. 

The artwork in “Just Add Glitter” includes a mix of drawn, cut-paper, and digitally colored illustrations, and as Kirkus Reviews writes, “the jaunty text makes for a lively read-aloud, complete with the repeatable, titular refrain, ‘Just add glitter!’ ”

Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi will read from their new books Thursday at 6 p.m. at a “PJ Party With Santa” at Yankee Candle in South Deerfield. Attendees are invited to wear their pajamas, and the event will feature hot cocoa and a visit from Santa.



by Rafik Schami

Illustrated by Peter Knorr

Crocodile Books/Interlink Publishing Group

Syrian-German writer Rafik Schami has won numerous awards in his adopted home of Germany for his novels and literary criticism; he’s recognized as a leading figure in the European migrant literature movement. Born in 1946, Schami is also the author of the 1990 children’s story “The Storyteller of Damascus,” which Interlink Books of Northampton presents in a new translation from the German.

It’s a story within a story within a parable, so to speak. The narrator of the tale is a man who looks back on his youth in Damascus “many, many years ago” when he and other children are entertained by an old storyteller who carries a huge chest on his back; visible inside it, through peepholes, are moving pictures he manipulates with magic wands and which help illustrate the story he tells.

That story is about a poor young shepherd, Sami, who falls in love with a young woman, Leyla. The two want to marry, but Leyla’s father wants her wed to a rich farmer in town and devises schemes to keep the couple apart. Sami, though, using magic and resourcefulness, eventually wins Leyla’s hand.

But over the years, the tale begins to change as the pictures in the storytellers’s chest fade away and are replaced, in a more modern Damascus, by magazine advertisements. For instance, Sami falls in love with Colgate, a young woman with beautiful white teeth, whose father is a car salesman. There’s a message here about finding value and meaning in tradition and real stories.

“The story goes on, becoming ‘weirder and weirder,’ ” writes Kirkus Reviews, “but still vital and wonderful. A writing, translation, and illustration masterpiece.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at









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