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Review: Orani: My Father’s Village September 5, 2011

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Orani: My Father's Village, by Claire Nivola

Claire Nivola begins her picture book Orani: My Father’s Village by vividly describing the location and geography of the village where her father grew up. “In a sea of breathtaking blue…white-pebbled shores…rugged cliffs,…thistles and wild-scented thyme.” She goes on to take the reader on a detailed journey through her childhood experiences visiting the village of Orani, on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. We join her and her cousins as they wander through the village, witnessing various scenes of daily life and eating delicious food. Nivola’s childhood feeling of being at the center, where “all I needed to learn and feel and know was down there” is perfectly captured in the detailed writing. An authors note at the end explains a little about the history of her family and the village, as well as the poverty and changes that were taking place during the time period of the story.

This book is perfect for children who like to look at illustrations at length, for there is always something new to find in Nivola’s lovely drawings. Similar to Barbara Cooney’s illustrations in their simple colors and smooth texture, kids will imagine themselves walking up the hill to the spring for water, exploring the dusty streets and tasting delicious food straight from cows, bees and hot ovens.

The book would also be a great tool to use as part of writing lessons for students in elementary school. There are many passages which could be used as examples of vivid description, such as this part about visiting a store “….to watch the tailor stitch jackets for the shepherds out of thick velvet–olive green, burnt ochre, brown and black.” Many students struggle to put words together to form a complete picture of what they imagine in their heads. Nivola’s writing is a wonderful inspiration for kids to describe their own lives.

My favorite passage in the book is at the end, where the narrator returns to her city in America and imagines everyone around her having another world that they come from. “But then, what different world, I wondered, what Orani of their own might they have known before they traveled here?” Hopefully this book will prompt some readers to learn about the stories and worlds of the people in their own families.

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