The Famous Nini :  A Mostly true Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star

Author:  Mary Nethery

Illustrated by:  John Manders.

Published:  Clarion Books  2010

Age:  3 – and up

Theme:   Cats, Cultural, friendship, Historical, Performing Arts

Opening Page  Long ago in Venice, on the Piazza San Marco, Nonna Framboni owned a caffe.  She served strong coffee and sweet treats.  But the caffe was so small, people passed by as if it didn’t exist.  One afternoon, Nonna opened the door, hoping the scent of coffee might bring in a customer.  There sat a plain white cat.  “Nini the stray,” said Nonna.  “Every day you beg on the piazza.  Now I find you at my door.  But I have no food to spare, not even a scrap.”

Synopsis:  A stray white cat begging in the streets of Venice makes its home in a caffe run by its poor owner.  Renowned composer Verdi wanders into the cafe to work on his latest opera. Unable to come up with just the right note until Nini meows, Verdi is thrilled and begins to frequent the cafe. The enterprising owner puts up a sign, The Great Verdi Takes His Coffee Here, and soon customers begin to flock to the cafe to see the famous composer as well as the now-famous cat. The King and Queen visited as did the Pope as did many famous people and Nini was declared Noble. When a small child of the Emperor visits we wonder if Nini can perform a miracle.

Why I Like this:   There are many reasons why this book caught my attention.  It’s cultural theme, and I love Venice – who dosen’t!  As the jacket flap on the inside cover states…. Acts of kindness can be rewarded in unexpected ways, ….   I also am a lover of cats and this book showed the special qualities that only cats posses.  The story is engaging  and on the back page is the Author’s Note of how the story came about including, the characters within.  It’s the kind of story I hope to write.  John Manders’ illustrations are rich, colourful and give one the feeling of being a patron of the caffe.

Activities/Links/Findings:   Here are a couple of beautiful pictures and Author’s notes from the back pages;…..   http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=NPdOOFYAqNoC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=The+famous+Nini&source=bl&ots=GMIkL_qoWX&sig=8FJv3KL2Vl4-BIU-qO-ElQqxr7M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IB9GT8y3GqOdiQKupfDaDQ&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBA#

The authors websites:  http://www.marynethery.com/          Authors website and book trailer…     http://www.marynethery.com/nini.html

Get to know more famous cats at the library….   http://www.times-standard.com/lifestyle/ci_18727655

A suggestion to invite discussion with in the classroom would be to ask children to write down what acts of kindness they have done or could do for one another or family members.

Also here is a great website of Fun Facts for Kids….    http://www.venere.com/blog/venice-fun-facts/

For more books with resources please visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for  Perfect Picture Books.    Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.

About Diane Tulloch

Known also as the Patientdreamer I am a writer who loves to dream, and is passionate about writing stories for the young so that they may join me in the wonders of adventure in countries and cultures afar, and in special moments to remember.
This entry was posted in 12x12in12, Folklore / multicultural, Picture book, Picture Book Review and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to “PERFECT PICTURE BOOK” – Friday

  1. Oh, this book sounds delightful, Diane! I love the tone of the opening! I love cats, and although I’ve never been to Italy, I love the idea of Venice 🙂 Thanks for sharing this one – I will definitely have to look for it! (P.S. I posted your link – it should be up and working.)

    • Thankyou Susanna, it is lovely book. I meant to mention that it is a “historian fiction”. The place and some of the characters are very real and did take place. Yes I have been to Venice and love it, it is so romantic. Yay! thankyou for linking me up.

  2. A beautiful selection Diane. I just happen to be going to see a Verdi opera tomorrow. So, this meant even more to me. Who does’t love a story set in Venice. Really liked your selection today. Great resources. Great addition to our list!

    • Hi Pat, thankyou for your comments. Oh darn! I have already returned the book to the library, but I do know that one of Verdi’s Opera pieces is dedicated to Nini …. it’s true. You might be able to pick it up in the websites under author notes… (note sure). Hope you enjoy the Opera. So pleased you loved this.

      • The Met opera I’m seeing is ‘Ernani.” Don’t think it is the same one. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with this one. I really did appreciate your selection!

  3. Catherine Johnson says:

    I think the level has gone up a notch this week, everyone is kicking out ever more wonderful books. Sounds fabulous, I love anything about Europe!

    • mmmm so do I Catherine. I get very nostalgic when Europe is mentioned. Thankyou so much for your lovely comment. The books being reviewed are fantastic, aren’t they?

  4. Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

    What a lovely PPBF! I will definitely look for this book, and next trip to Venice I will think fondly of Nini!

  5. Julie says:

    I wish I’d known about this book before our trip to Italy last summer! Is it a true story?

    • Hi Julie, yes it is a “Historical fiction” book. So the cafe does exist and I believe it was an autograph book for visitors to leave a memento of their visit for Nini the cat, that inspired this story. The “authors Note” page tells us how the story came about. You and I will have to return to Venice again I can see….lol.

  6. What a fun story. I’m not a cat fan, but I love all things Italian. So, I’ll check it out.

  7. Diane — This sounds fabulous. I was not familiar with this book, but I am a fan of John Manders! Nini sounds like a splendid cat!

  8. Amy Dixon says:

    This sounds charming! And being Italian, I have a soft-spot for books that take place there. Thanks!

  9. This book sounds like a cool book. I would love to see Nini pur-form a miracle (get it PURRR-form 😉 )! I checked out your fun facts link about Venice, thanks for telling us about it. I read some books that took place in Venice too. It sounds like a cool city. I like the idea of the story plot (and I like cats too).

    • LOL….. very clever Eric…. pur-form… 🙂 . Venice is a very cool city. It has so much history and very beautiful to the eye! You would never be bored there. Even now I can still visualise the street the glass blowing is on, just around the corner from the square. So glad you liked the book Eric, thankyou for your comments, I always enjoy hearing from you.

  10. clarbojahn says:

    Love it! Sounds like a great book. I laughed at Erik’s comment above with his “purr-form” miracle. 🙂

  11. A “mostly true story” and a cat — those two ingredients hooked me right away. This sounds delightful, Diane. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  12. Thankyou Beth. It is a delightful story, glad you liked it.

  13. What a great choice for PPBF…have never heard of this book…will definitely try to get a copy at the library! It’s wonderful for young children to get a taste of the world through a picture book…Venice…aaaahhh! Thank you for the wonderful activities and resources, Diane. 🙂
    I think the cafe owner was the ultimate networker…she was her own PR agent and knew how to take advantage of an important connection!

    • Thankyou very much Vivian for your comments. I hope you manage to get a copy. Yes I liked the way the cafe owner used the important connections to her advantage…lol. It’s is very good.

  14. Heather says:

    I love the title and the cover illustration perfectly captures how sinuous cats are. Thank you!

  15. What a fun story and great mix of fact and fiction. As you say Venice+Verdi+inspirational cat is such a winning combination. Thank for introducing me to this new book.

  16. My husband went to Venice last year on business, and we pored over pictures on the National Geographic site. I wish I had this book then to show the boys where Daddy was. And, as a business instructor, I love the enterprising marketing going on in this book. Thanks for recommendation!

  17. Love the storyline here — so creative. I’m going to check this out. Thanks for the intro to the book!

  18. Laura Renauld says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing on PPBF. Glad to be part of the gang.

  19. I love cats and coffee (and Venice, though I haven’t been there yet). Thanks for sharing this delightful book!

  20. Loni Edwards says:

    This sounds like an excellent book! The artwork is fabulous and the story sounds great!

    Italy is on my bucket list 🙂 Ever since 5th grade when I read “The Dog of Pompeii” in English class. It started a love of archaeology and Italy for me!

  21. I have always wanted to travel to Venice. How exciting. And we have four barn cats. Our three house cats began passing away a couple years ago, but Ivy (our girl) says she wishes she was a cat. Ha! What a gorgeous book. Adding it to my list. Thank you, thank you for sharing. I am sorry I am late with my comments, but I was finishing a short story I wrote about our son Christopher that I am submitting to an anthology. *waving*

    • Hi Robyn *waves back*…. no worries. Ohhhh a short story…. now I would love to read that…. If you need a second reader or someone to review it when it comes out…. Please let me be the first…okay? Thankyou so much for your lovely comment.

  22. I’m a cat lover, too, so this is a MUST read. Thanks for your review.

  23. Pingback: Nini in the news | John Manders' Blog

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