Orani: My Father's Village

Overview

One of School Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

As a child, Claire Nivola loved summers in Orani, the village where her father grew up and where her many aunts, uncles, and 50 cousins still lived. She ran freely through the town's cobbled streets with packs of cousins, who quizzed her about America while she took in all teh simple joys and ...

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Overview

One of School Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

As a child, Claire Nivola loved summers in Orani, the village where her father grew up and where her many aunts, uncles, and 50 cousins still lived. She ran freely through the town's cobbled streets with packs of cousins, who quizzed her about America while she took in all teh simple joys and pleasures of daily life in a village where surprises met them at every turn.

In this sensuous homage of prose and pictures, Nivola invites readers to share in her experience of Orani, a village where surprises met them at every turn and luxuries were unheard of, but life was rich, lived close to the earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
From the Publisher
"While this would serve as a model for personal narrative writing, it mostly deserves to be read for the rhapsodic, evocative story that it tells of a place that to kids will seem long ago and far away." —BCCB

 

"This shimmering memoir opens a window on the past and invites young readers to climb through it…As families head off this summer to visit relatives or explore other parts of the world, the lyrical text and sun-drenched illustrations of this lovely book make a perfect bon voyage, a graceful reminder to a new generation to remember this time and cherish this place.” —Washington Post

 

“Orani and its people are lovingly evoked in Nivola’s watercolor and gouache paintings, from expansive views to more intimate scenes, from children thronging narrow streets and family gatherings to pensive vignettes.” —Horn Book Magazine, Starred

“Nivola is a consummate artist. The work here is heartbreakingly beautiful, with its depictions of the village’s red-tiled roofs and cobbled streets. Its people are alive, and you absolutely know who young Claire is in nearly every spread by her hair, her sandals and her dress. I think children will relish searching for her on each page.” -The New York Times Book Review

Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati J.D.
The detailed watercolor illustrations evoke a time when family and community reigned supreme in this Sardinian village. One could say it was a simpler time, but there is nothing simple about baking bread from scratch, grinding wheat into flour, weddings that lasted three days and three nights, and carrying a coffin up a steep Mediterranean hill. In this story, summer days are filled with quiet treasures: drinking water from a well, roaming cobblestone streets, picking figs from a tall tree, and playing with cousins in the piazza. The author, who spent summers in her father's Sardinian town, lovingly remembers the visits her family made by boat from New York to Orani. She captures well the rhythm and pace of village life, and the beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains. In her note at the back of the book, the author explains how the village has changed over time. Although she still visits, that sheltered world has become much like any other town due to cars, computers and vanishing street life. Readers are lucky that she inhabited this world for a time and remembers it so well in this lovely tale. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Nivola reminisces about her time spent as child in the small village in Sardinia where her father was born. She describes running free down cobbled streets with her cousins, participating in family festivities, enjoying everyday occurrences (new babies, flatbread baked in open ovens, flour ground by a local miller), and watching horsemen gallop through the village streets on Corpus Christi day. The quiet, descriptive text might not immediately attract today's tech-savvy youngsters, but it could strike a chord with well-traveled children, especially those with ancestral links to the Mediterranean—or other countries abroad. In addition, Nivola's charming primitive-style art works well in both the up-close images as well as in the broad landscape scenes that she loving captures. A book to inspire young writers and artists to interview and write about their own parents' (or grandparents') lives.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Kirkus Reviews

Intriguing pictures full of small details bring alive the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of a small Sardinian town in the 1950s.

Nivola traveled to Orani during many summers of her childhood, when it was still a traditional village, albeit one that was growing more prosperous than the home her father left behind in 1926.She remembers in words and pictures first arriving by boat, then riding by car and finally sitting with her cousins "[u]nder a fig tree, beside the laundry, among the chickens" to discuss the differences between America and Orani.She goes on to recount the daily adventures of seeing a newborn baby, watching the tailor make velvet jackets for the shepherds and finding "a fledgling fallen from its nest." Drinking in the carefully delineated, naive watercolors and sensory prose, young readers attend three-day weddings and funerals for old men, buried in their holiday clothes.They experience the Corpus Christi holidays, with a horse race through the narrow streets of the village, and the family meals with "cheese from someone's cow, the honey from someone's bees."

Neither a story with a plot nor a full-blown memoir, this brief look at a town suspended in time resonates with happiness and could spark some children to reflect on their own idyllic summers in a new way. (map, author's note)(Picture book/memoir. 7-10)

Tomie dePaola
…the illustration is the heart and soul and brilliance of this book. Nivola is a consummate artist. The work here is heartbreakingly beautiful, with its depictions of the village's red-tiled roofs and cobbled streets. Its people are alive, and you absolutely know who young Claire is in nearly every spread by her hair, her sandals and her dress…Read the text slowly. Then, let your young "looker" pore over the pictures to find the myriad details that are painted with love and tell a deeper story.
—The New York Times
Kristi Jemtegaard
This shimmering memoir opens a window on the past and invites young readers to climb through it…a graceful reminder to a new generation to remember this time and cherish this place.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374356576
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 36
  • Sales rank: 1,353,623
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Claire Nivola has written and illustrated many books for children, most recently, Planting the Trees of Kenya, an award-winning picture book about Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. She lives with her husband in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Orani: My Father's Village


By Claire A. Nivola

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

Copyright © 2011 Claire A. Nivola
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-35657-6


Chapter One

In a sea of breathtaking blue, where dolphins leaped and plunged in play, lay an island. Tucked here and there along the white-pebbled shores were grottoes hung with stalactites. Above, on the rugged cliffs, tiny goats picked their way among the rocks and thistles and wild scented thyme. The fruit on the island tasted like the fruit of paradise, but wild boars roamed the mountains. There were nettles that stung, scorpions with poisonous tails, and bandits who stole sheep and sometimes kidnapped people. In the very heart of the island, in a valley, lay the village of Orani, where my father was born.

Every year or so, my family traveled far across the ocean to Italy. An overnight boat took us from the mainland to the island's port, arriving at dawn.

From there we rode inland, past the scrub oaks and red trunks of the harvested cork trees, past chalky talc cliffs and expanses blackened by brush fires.

How long it took to get there! Hour after hour we drove under a scorching sun, until suddenly the curving road plunged down into the valley, and the houses, low and dark on either side, held us close.

The car stopped abruptly and relatives appeared from all around.

Cousins took me by the hand and led me through the thick-walled houses and out into the courtyards.

Under a fig tree, beside the laundry, among the chickens, they asked, "What is it like in America?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Orani: My Father's Village by Claire A. Nivola Copyright © 2011 by Claire A. Nivola. Excerpted by permission of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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