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Orani written & illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

In this autobiographical picture book, Claire A. Nivola (Planting the Trees of Kenya) recalls her childhood memories of her father’s birthplace on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Nivola’s lucid prose and paintings (reminiscent of Carmen Lomas Garza’s Family Pictures and Barbara Cooney’s Island Boy) immerse the reader in a sensory experience—the intensity of sunlight, the sweetness of fruit, the annoyance of flies, the “unspeakable strangeness of death.” Although an author’s note gives context to the era in which the narrative takes place, the story recalls a time of life before that context is necessarily important, in which events—birth, death, the eating of a fig, the baking of bread—simply happen, moment to moment. In this way, Nivola nearly slips into romanticism, but only just enough to make us fall in love with the beautiful Orani. Grades 1–4.

Reviewed by: 
Holly