Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Famous Nini

The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star
written by Mary Nethery; illustrated by John Manders
(Clarion Books) 2010
Source: A review copy was provided by the publisher

In 1890s Venice, a white stray cat named Nini wanders in Nonna Framboni's caffe on the heels of Guiseppe Verdi, the renowned composer. Verdi is vexed by an unfinished composition that needs just the right note. Nini's meow strikes the exact note needed and Verdi is delighted. Nonna puts a sign in her window, hoping Verdi's visits will bring in much needed customers. Sure enough, more customers come wanting to see the cat who inspired Verdi. Nini is subsequently visited at the caffe by the king and queen of Italy, the pope, and the emperor of Ethiopia. In each visit, Nini produces a small act of kindness that deeply touches each guest and turns a struggling caffe into a new home for the stray cat.

This fictional account, of a real life cat celebrity in 1890s Venice, contains beautifully bright illustrations that are a companion to a story that contains a simple yet powerful message. Small acts of kindness can make a large difference in someone's life, and Nini the cat teaches students that you don't have to be big to make a big contribution. The Famous Nini reminds me of Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace in that both books feature characters who make people happy through simple acts.

Other reviews of The Famous Nini:

Diary of an Eccentric
Elizabeth Varadan

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