Life Without Nico

Andrea Maturana, illus. by Francisco Javier Olea. Kids Can, $16.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-77138-611-1
When Maia’s best friend Nico moves to Australia for an extended time, “the emptiness follows Maia everywhere she goes,” in this story first published in Mexico. Several spreads of the book, the English-language debut for both Maturana and Olea, dwell on Maia’s lonely unhappiness, but eventually life goes on: Maia gets a kitten, makes a new friend, discovers a love for the piano, and “with the arrival of spring, everything begins to bloom.” When Nico’s return becomes imminent, Maia grows worried: “Her life has become so full. Will there be enough room for Nico, too?” Using expressionistic graphic elements and an offbeat palette of brown, yellow, and teal, Olea’s drawings capture moments that are both recognizably realistic (Nico’s father points on a map to show just how far away the family is moving) and deeply private: when Maia is at her lowest point, Olea shows her forlornly looking through a huge, schematically drawn telescope at very distant stars. Maturana’s minimal, lyrical text, set in a wistful, handwritten-style font, embellishes the artwork and beautifully modulates the mood from melancholy to lighthearted. Ages 4–7. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Children's
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