Many American families maintain ties with relatives and friends in the country of their heritage. Oftentimes, these families make pilgrimages back to the “old country” to reunite with their heritage and with their friends and relatives. Claire A. Nivola’s picture book Orani: My Father’s Village takes the reader on a journey to Orani, Sardinia, her father’s homeland.
As a tribute to her father’s birthplace and the Mediterranean island that few are familiar with, Claire uses her childhood memories of the 1950s and 1960s to create a memorable picture book that captures the geography, climate, and simple life of a small Italian village.
From an American child’s perception, the reader is introduced to a culture that is rich with family togetherness and traditions. When the main character interacts with her relatives, Claire reveals her daily life. A wedding, a baby’s birth, a man’s death, and Corpus Christi Day are interspersed in the running narrative of ordinary activities. The book can be used to model memoir writing.
As both the author and illustrator, Claire is able to effectively meld together her descriptive words with her detailed and plentiful pictures. The watercolor and gouache paintings add immensely to her colorful prose. An author’s note provides additional insight into her background.
- One of School Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011
- One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011
- European geography
- Italian history
- island life vs. living on a continent
- history- life in the 1950s and 1960s
- immigration and family roots
- traditions and cultural differences
- perceptions- child vs. adult
- traveling to visit family
- use of descriptive words
- fiction vs. non-fiction
- example of a memoir in picture book format
- If you were teaching a unit on memoirs/personal narratives, what other picture books would you consider using to model this genre?