________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011



François Thisdale.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2011.
40 pp., hardcover, $17.99.
ISBN 978-1-77049-270-7.

Grades 1-6 / Ages 6-11.

Review by Barb Janicek.

**** /4



Years have passed.

Some days, the child hears a distant echo. She thinks of rice paddies, of lotus flowers in the wind, of a little house with a pointed roof. Sometimes, just before she sleeps, she whispers to the moon that she is happy.

In their girl's wise eyes, her mother and father see the past joined with the present, like a bridge that connects one place to another.

Just like the roots in a garden weave together to become one plant, the mother, father, and little girl are bound to one another. Their love joins them and reaches to the other side of the earth.

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.

internal art      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.

Highly Recommended.

Barb Janicek is a Children's Librarian with Kitchener Public Library, in Kitchener, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.