It’s time to look at a quiet book, the kind of book that kind of sneaks up on you. In some ways, it’s the opposite of graphically stunning Where’s Walrus? that Lolly just presented.
A tale of reverse migration, Claire Nivola’s story recounts her frequent trips to her father’s village in Sardinia from the States. While the text is simple and heartfelt, evoking the beauty of the island and the town of Orani, it’s the illustrations that drew me into this story.
Naïve watercolor and gouache (which remind me of Barbara Cooney’s work) follow the young Claire (wearing a red dress in each spread) as she moves among her Italian family in a town time seems to have left untouched. It’s the tiny details that sold me: the cousins with their arms around one another, the fascination with a dead body, the flatbreads stacked, the flies, a wedding. The full spreads showing the village from a distance invite long inspection, perhaps with a magnifying glass to see the scaffolding on a house and the tiny suggestions of people walking up the mountain. This town is alive with music, food, dance and the play of the generations together.
Will the committee appreciate the tiny details of this illustrated memoir? Will they see how the scale of village life was perfect for little Claire and appreciate how she interprets that life through her folk-like, but never nostalgic, illustrations? What do you think?