Orani: My Father's Village

Claire A. Nivola, Illustrator
Claire A. Nivola. FSG/Foster, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-35657-6
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Nivola's hymn to the Sardinian village where her father was born is filled with sights and sounds all but lost to 21st-century civilization: endless feasting "in kitchens filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, all speaking at once"; mysterious knowledge ("Have you ever seen a dead man? No?" Nivola is asked, after which she's led to view a corpse laid out for mourning); and the rituals of a vanished economy (she watches the village tailor "stitch jackets for the shepherds out of thick velvet"). The terra-cotta roofs of the houses, the bleached white of their walls, and the curves of baskets, plates, and women's skirts unite Nivola's paintings, which radiate the serenity of Sienese altarpieces. Nivola is truthful about the annoying features of village life ("And there were flies, always flies!") as well as its wonders. "All I needed to learn and feel and know was down there," she says as she recalls looking down upon the village from the surrounding mountains. Although Nivola (Planting the Trees of Kenya) suggests that perhaps everyone has an Orani of their own, few will receive as heartfelt an elegy as this. Ages 4–8. (July)
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