Monday, September 6, 2010

Book Review- The Famous Nini

The Mostly True Story Of How A Plain White Cat Became A Star
By Mary Nethery
Illustrated by John Manders
Published by Clarion Books
Source- The Author/Publisher
Released on June 7th, 2010
4 Stars- A Wonderful Read

In Venice in the 1890s, a café owner takes in a stray cat she names Nini. This is against her better judgment, for the café is modest, and she has nothing to spare. But in no time at all, the cat becomes a celebrity, charming all sorts of important visitors, including the composer Giuseppe Verdi, the King and Queen of Italy, and even the pope himself. Nini's fame helps save the struggling business. Bit is his stardom enough to produce a small miracle of a different sort? (taken from the book's cover)

My kids and I really enjoyed reading about Nini, a real cat from the 1890's who was taken in by a cafe owner in Venice, Italy. Nini's story in The Famous Nini is a wonderful reminder about how small acts of kindness can go a long way. Nini is visited by many famous people all over the world, whom after meeting Nini are changed for the better.

Nini helps not only helps Nonna, the cafe owner who takes him in, but he inspires the world famous composer Giuseppe Verdi, helps the King & Queen of Italy make a tough decision, gets blessed by the Pope, helps the Emperor of Ethiopia's young daughter speak again and inspires other people around him.

The Famous Nini has beautiful illustrations and that both young and old will enjoy. With the author's note included at the end of the story, readers will learn the Nini really did live, see the cafe he lived at and learn about which famous people really came to meet him.

Book Review: The Aristobrats

Author: Jennifer Solow
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jaberwocky
Source: ARC From Publisher
Ages: 10-13
Rating: 3 Stars

Parker Bell has been waiting her whole life for Eighth Grade – she’s finally at the very top of the populadder at Wallingford Academy and her Facebook Friend count has never been higher. A second generation Wally (what most people call an “Aristobrat”), Parker is determined to use her status to champion the underpopular. But when Parker and her three best friends are mysteriously assigned to produce the highly academic (and seriously bleh) webcast, she watches in horror as their spot on the populadder plummets.

The girls will do whatever it takes to save their reputations, even if it means masterminding a plan to get kicked off the project. But when their predicament gets even worse, they just might realize that true friendship means more than status.

I am definitely not the target audience for this book. I have read and enjoyed many middle grade books but The Aristobrats held little crossover appeal to me as an adult reader. All the tween slang was a little much for me: populadder, BTdubs, Lylas, bagsy, hairy eyeball, EGB... the list goes on and on and on. Being someone who is not into designer labels, tanning, hair, makeup, friend counts, etc., I couldn't really relate to these 8th grade girls whose life could seem to be in ruins by only having 4 facebook friend requests in 2 weeks.

Thankfully, the ending redeemed this book. Interwoven through all the slang, talk of designer clothing and impossible for me to decipher text messages, is a valuable message about true friendship. After being required to produce a webcast for their school these girls watched their popularity start to spiral downward. They were faced with choices that led them to learn that friendship is much more important than being popular and being yourself is the best way to be.

Although I personally did not love this book I can see that others will enjoy it. This book will likely appeal to many tween-aged girls, especially those entering the challenging middle grade years. For parents of children this age, this book would be a way to get a glimpse into the world they are living in and the thought process of tween ages girls.

If you are interested, the first few chapters of this book are available on Jennifer Solow's website. It will only take a couple minutes to read through them and see if this book is for you.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~