Saturday 4 October 2014

Celia and Nonna

Celia and Nonna by Victoria Lane, illustrated by Kayleen West (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-1925000603 (HB)
ISBN 978-1925000610 (PB)
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Every now and again you read a picture book that stings a little. It stings because it hits a chord, a memory and a small untouched pain somewhere inside of you. Celia and Nonna is that book; a touching story so divinely written that it has left my heart with a familiar longing.

Celia is a little girl with a warming relationship with her Nonna (grandmother in Italian). She visits her for regular sleepovers. Her Nonna keeps special treasures at her house just for Celia. Together they bake biscotti and read so many books that the penguins and fairies get jumbled in Celia’s head. Celia is Nonna’s little angel.

But one day, Celia notices that her Nonna is doing some strange, forgetful things like leaving the stove on, locking herself outside and forgetting to get changed out of her pyjamas when she visits the market. As Nonna’s forgetfulness worsens, she is taken to a new home where there are people to care for her. Celia begs to still sleepover, but there is only one bed in a room that has bare, grey walls and stinks of lemon and vinegars. Celia wishes that things would go back to how they were before when they would sit in the kitchen and bake biscotti together. She struggles to connect with her Nonna’s new home.

Until Celia finds some pencil and paper in Nonna’s new room and decides to draw her memories of Nonna’s old house. She draws the house with its tumbledown bushes and rubs of rosemary. Next time she visits she draws the kitchen filled with shelves of borlotti beans and jars of spices and each time after that, she draws a new picture until her Nonna’s walls are filled with a happy collection of memories, and until Celia has forgotten the funny smell and grey walls and realises that she is happy wherever her Nonna is.

As a young child, it is difficult to comprehend the challenging dynamics and changes that come with ageing family members, particularly those we have such a close and special connection with. Yet this book handles these issues, through the eyes of a child, with such grace and delicacy that although it stings, it gently encourages the reader to embrace those changes. This heart warming story is made even more touching by Kayleen West’s illustrations, which capture this story in vibrant images that tell of both the pleasure and pain.

Celia and Nonna is not only a book about old age and grieving the loss of a life that was, it is a story of connection and compassion that can be read on so many different levels, making it the perfect book for any public or private collection. 

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou Francine for your thoughtful review. So glad you liked the book. Victoria.


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