CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011
François Thisdale is best known as an illustrator, and Nini is the first book he has written. Nothing has been lost in the translation from the original French version. The poetic story of adoption, love, and family complements the soft illustrations which tell half of the story and set the mood on each page. This is Thisdale's personal story, and the black smudging around the edges of each page give the impression that readers are experiencing each step of the journey through his eyes.
The story starts in China, with the unborn child connecting with the birth mother in the womb. All the child knows is "the voice" and the yet-unnamed feeling of love. When the child is born, she experiences kindness but misses the connection and love of real family in the orphanage. In Canada, a couple tries to conceive, unsuccessfully. Eventually, the couple and the child meet in China and return to Canada. The story ends years later, in reflection and gratitude.
In Nini, adoption is portrayed as a gift. It gets close to the sentimental line, though never completely crossing it. There is honesty about the fear and loneliness in the orphanage and hints at the difficulty of being raised in a different culture. But the story is overwhelmingly positive.
Through his illustrations, a combination of drawing, painting, and digital images, Francois Thisdale captures the geography and cultures of both Canada and China while evoking emotions as varied as love, fear, sadness, gratitude and joy.
Despite its picturebook format, this story is as much (if not more) for adults than for children. It captures both the complexity and simplicity of adoption, while telling a recognizably Canadian story. Every parent will be moved by Nini, and children of adoption will recognize themselves in the story of Nini. It is an excellent starting point for parents who want to discuss the topic of adoption.
Barb Janicek is a Children's Librarian with Kitchener Public Library, in Kitchener, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.