________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 37. . . .May 27, 2016


Life Without Nico.

Andrea Maturana. Illustrated by Francisco Javier Olea.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2016.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-611-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4


Andrea Maturana is an award winning author of books for children and adults in her native country of Chile. Translated from the Spanish, Life Without Nico tells the simple story of friendship and loss, the kind that is experienced by almost every child in her/his growing up years.

Maia and Nico are best friends.
They never get bored of playing together.
. Even when they aren't together, it's as if they are.
But one day Nico's father says they'll be moving away for a while so he can continue his studies.
This news is hard to accept.

     After Nico and his family leave "...a hole appears in Maia's life." A wonderful illustration on this page shows the reader a drawing of a despondent Maia holding up a paper mache globe given to her by Nico. As she dangles it, it casts a shadow in the region of her heart. Starting on that day, Maia feels an emptiness which follows her around.

It's boring. She can't play with it,
and it won't let other children near.

     Feelings of darkness and things being far off come and go for Maia in the days that follow Nico's departure. But as time goes by, a kitten, a new friend and the pleasure of learning to play the piano start to fill the hole in Maia's heart. As her friend's return draws near, Maia begins to wonder whether there is enough room now in her life for Nico.

     Life Without Nico is a deceptively simple story which explores complex themes of friendship, loss, loneliness, grief, depression and love. Although the author shows her readers these emotions in the voice and through the eyes of a child, adults readers are guaranteed to be moved by this story.

     Francisco Javier Olea is a professional illustrator and designer who lives in Chile and who has worked for the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio since 1999. He teaches illustration and design, has illustrated many children's books, published five books of his own, and in 2012 won the prestigious Altazor award for design and illustration. A year later his illustration and design for Maturana's Spanish version of Life Without Nico won an honourable mention from the Economic Culture Fund. (In this first publication, for some reason, Nico was named "Santi")

      Olea is an immensely talented artist, who, in a recent interview has said about himself that he "...likes emotional ambivalence, wistful drawings so sad that they make you smile and stories that reveal inner worlds...those ones that capture the fears that everyone carries." Being aware of the artist's interests, one can easily understand the appeal that Life Without Nico would have for him, and why his illustrations match so beautifully and bring to life so truthfully Andrea Maturana's evocative story.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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