Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE FAMOUS NINI by Mary Nethery


A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star

by Mary Nethery & illustrated by John Manders

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: June 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-618-97769-7
Publisher: Clarion

Nethery includes both fact and fancy in her account of a stray cat’s elevation to celebrity status in 1890s Venice. Nini wanders into Nonna Framboni’s coffee shop one day, and, miraculously, his presence immediately improves the struggling shop’s bottom line. First, the composer Verdi stops by for a coffee and hears the perfect note in Nini’s meow. Then artists search for inspiration in his glowing green eyes, and poets seek him out as a potential muse. Royalty from various countries visit and send gifts, and even the pope makes a pilgrimage to meet the famous Nini. Many of these encounters actually occurred, although the author acknowledges embellishing the details. Manders’s illustrations, rendered in gouache and colored pencil, capture the humor implicit in the text’s (and Nonna Framboni’s) gentle hyperbole. Expressions, both human and feline, are often amusingly exaggerated, and the setting is simplified but well realized, ensuring that the focus remains squarely on the characters and their actions. Nonetheless it’s difficult to determine who might best appreciate this reimagining of admittedly obscure historical events. Pleasant but, perhaps, ultimately inconsequential. (Picture book. 5-8)