Posts Tagged ‘john manders’

The pope smiled.  “Blessings be on Nini, who gives such joy,” he said.  He raised his hand.

Nini raised his paw.  He patted the pope’s shiny ring.

The pope’s smile grew into a wide grin.  “Can it be?” he said.  “Has Nini just blessed the pope?”

(from The Famous Nini, page 19)

When Mary Nethery asked if I’d be interested in reviewing her newest picture book, I couldn’t say no, especially since The Girl and I just loved her last book, Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle (read our review), which she co-wrote with Major Brian Dennis and Kirby Larson.  When I opened the envelope from the publisher, I was drawn to the beautiful cover with the vivid blue sky, the waters of Venice, and of course, Nini.

The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star is a charming picture book written by Mary Nethery and illustrated by John Manders that tells the story of Nini, a cat who makes himself at home in Nonna Framboni’s caffè.  It is here that Nini inspires Verdi, meets the king and queen of Italy (who declare National Nini Day), and even blesses the pope.  But it is how Nini helps the daughter of Emperor Menelik that steals the show.

At the end of the book, Nethery explains that Nini was a real cat who lived in a caffè in Venice in the 1890s and became a celebrity for reasons unknown.  People flocked to the coffee shop to sign Nini’s guest book, and people paid tribute to him when he died.  Nethery imagines that Nini’s purr — something unique to cats — led to his fame.  She also details all the famous figures in the story, who actually called upon Nini during his lifetime, and separates the facts from the fiction in the book.

The Girl (age 10) and I both loved the illustrations and how the historical figures and their connections to Nini were detailed at the end.  We both learned a lot from this picture book, as we’d never heard of Nini prior to reading it.  The Famous Nini is a beautiful picture book to share with children and a tribute to the soothing touch of animals — and how they often do more for us than we could ever do for them.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Famous Nini from the author and Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »