Can a cat be so remarkable that he inspires composers, charms kings and emperors, and even the pope is impressed? THE FAMOUS NINI, The Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star, is the true story of just such a cat.
Well…, mostly true, as the title admits. Written by Mary Nethery and illustrated by John Mandeers, the story of this famous cat captivated me!
What is true is that sometime in the 1890’s, a stray cat named Nini lived in a small caffè on the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Somehow Nini became so famous that he ended up having his very own guest book. Royalty, statesmen, artists, composers—all came to meet this renowned cat. Verdi, the king and queen of Italy, Pope Leo XIII, the emperor of Ethiopia, to name only a few, signed Nini’s guest book. Verdi, in fact, scrawled notes from his opera, La Traviata on a page.
The question is, why?
To answer that question, Nethery leads us through a delightful and serendipitous tale, where an accidental meow at just the right moment sets off a unique chain of events. Aided by the caffè owner’s clever advertising, each new event enlarges the cat’s reputation.
This is a book to be read and savored. Nethery’s gentle humor and quirky imagination make unlikely scenarios thoroughly plausible. John Manders’ lively and dashing illustrations capture both the tale and the era. Small children will enjoy hearing this about a cat so endearing his owner calls him, “my almond, my fig, my cream puff.” Readers will wish they could sign Nini’s guest book too!
In a March 4th interview on this blog with Kirby Larson, I mentioned that Larson and Nethery had co-written two award-winning books: Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. In addition to these, as well as Nini, you can learn about more of her books at: http://www.marynethery.com/
You can learn more about the illustrator, John Manders, at his blog: http://johnmanders.wordpress.com/ and also in an interview with him posted on June 30th at the book blog, http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/