Award-Winning Books Literatura Europa Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] An Ode to A Small Village in the Heart of the Mediterranean


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

I have fallen in love with Italy. Last year, we did the usual touristy visit to Venice and Rome.This year, my family and I had the opportunity to spend five days in Milan and another five days in Tuscany. I realize now that it was the smaller Italian towns that appealed to me more than the flashier, bigger, more crowded cities.

Orani: My Father’s Village

Written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux 2011
ISBN-10: 0374356572
ISBN-13: 9780374356576
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

The story is based on Claire Nivola’s childhood, as their family visited Orani once a year, a small village in Italy where her father was born. We often hear of places being characters in a story – this is a prime example of how it can be done in a picturebook biography format:

Claire Nivola has managed to make this place come alive for the readers: the sloping green hills, the foot of the mountains bubbling with spring water, and the people who know everyone and who are distantly related to each other (twice removed or something of the sort):

While there is a distinct hint of nostalgia, the narrator is never left to her own musings – unable to connect with the reader; rather, it reaches out of the pages, drawing the reader in, making them part of the cobblestone streets, and a life that is so much simpler where every meal seems like a family feast, where old women offer treats to children passing by, and climbing on fig trees is a natural daily occurrence.

While Claire Nivola goes back to New York after a brief visit to Orani, she is left wondering the all-important question:

… what different world, I wondered, what Orani of their own might they have known before they traveled here?

This made me remember my own Orani – my mother’s birthplace, a small town in Central Visayas. Perhaps someday I shall write about it too. For teachers who wish to make use of this in their classroom, do make sure that you read the Author’s Note at the very end of the story. It adds a different texture to the narrative.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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