Nini Lost and Found, written and illustrated by Anita Lobel, is the story of an indoor cat who succumbs to the urge to sneak outside one day. While fully aware of the comforts of her home, Nini can't resist the lure of "grasses teasing her nose" and "flowers smelling so good". But it turns out that the outside world is a pretty scary place, once nighttime comes. Fortunately (as astute readers will expect from the title), Nini finds her way home again.
Nini Lost and Found explores timeless themes of the joy of discovery vs. the safety of home. A final page suggestion of more mischief keeps the happy ending from being maudlin (as do Nini's cat-like expressions).
Lobel uses very short sentences, which feel appropriate to a cat's perspective. This book could almost work as an early reader - the language is quite accessible and easy to follow. It works very well as a read-aloud, too.
Lobel's gouache and watercolor illustrations are warm and full of texture. Nini Lost and Found would be an excellent gift for cat lovers of all ages (as Anita Lobel clearly is). I'm not a cat person, but even I found Lobel's paintings of Nini appealing. It's a bit hard to see in the small image here, but she's giving this shyly mischievous sideways look on the cover that's hard to resist. The nighttime scenes are dark and scary, and might frighten very young readers, but the brave reader will be rewarded by a safe and cozy finish.
Nini Lost and Found is going in our library (despite my fear that it will make Baby Bookworm more likely to want a cat someday). Highly recommended.
Nini Lost and Found was a Horn Book Fanfare title for 2010.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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