Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel
This second book about Nini the cat follows the award-winning Nini Here and There that won a Caldecott Honor in 2007. In this book, Nini discovered that the door to the house has been left open and escaped out into the garden. While the house was cozy, the outdoors was also fun. There were grasses, flowers, and an entire woods to explore. But when night falls, the woods became more frightening, darker and filled with noises that could be large animals coming after her. Nini hid under a tree, but realized that she could not just stay there. That’s when she heard voices calling her from the house. With a burst of courage, Nini ran home, through the open door that closed behind her. Back to the familiar things and smells and food. She was very happy to be home and safe, for now.
Lobel’s deep colored illustrations show both the comforts of home and the enticements of the outdoors as equally welcoming. The richness of the autumnal landscape brings a warmth to the outdoors, inviting both Nini and readers to explore. Children will understand Nini’s wish to escape, wander and explore. They will also understand her conflicting desire for safety and warmth. It is a gentle take on the theme of running away from home. When the book turns darker with nightfall, Lobel’s color palette turns to deep blues, blacks and browns. The contrast is distinct and makes for a more chilling moment when Nini is hiding and scared. The contrast is clear and effective.
This simple picture book will be enjoyed by children for many different reasons. Some for the story of a cat, others will see the parallel with children running away, and others will enjoy the adventure at night in the dark. I look for books that can be enjoyed by many types of children for different reasons. This is most certainly one of them. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.