15 Jun / Nana, Nenek & Nina by Liza Ferneyhough [in Shelf Awareness]
Liza Ferneyhough makes her delightfully clever author/illustrator debut with Nana, Nenek & Nina. The picture book opens with a double-page spread introducing a three-person family, with the Golden Gate Bridge visible through their window. Photos hang on either side of the window, two of which are annotated with explanatory arrows: on the left is Nenek (“the k is there, and not”), on the right is Nana (“sounds like banana”). On the left page, Mom holds a phone (“brring”), an overflowing suitcase at her feet; on the right, Dad and Nina anticipate a virtual connection (“beep beep”) using a screen. Already, Ferneyhough adroitly reveals an impressive melding of minimal text and glorious art.
On the second double-page spread, the left and right sides create a cohesive image, but the gutter divides the illustration into two clearly different locations. The distinct rings from the previous page are matched to faraway locations: “beep beep” is Nana, standing in front of a country cottage; “brring” is Nenek, her tropical home aloft on stilts. “Nina has two grandmothers who live on opposite sides of the world,” the text explains. The next bisected spread shows England (Big Ben) and Malaysia (Petronas Twin Towers), with speech bubbles capturing greetings in British English and Malay.
Visits commence: “To see Nana, Nina’s family flies toward sunrise. To see Nenek, they fly toward the sunset instead.” Ferneyhough keeps Nana on the left page, Nenek on the right, deftly revealing similarities and differences with each spread. Nina peeks out at roses and hedgehogs in Nana’s garden; she looks out to monkeys amid palm trees at Nenek’s. She needs woolly things and wellies (rainboots) to venture out with Nana, and just a dress and selipars (flip-flops) to enjoy the day with Nenek. Contrasts are artfully plenty, but Ferneyhough brilliantly connects similarities through text that reads across the top of both pages: “Everyone sits together,” the left side begins, “at the dinner table to eat,” the right side finishes. Details differ, yes, but the familiar routines lovingly bind everyone.
Ferneyhough, like Nina, lives in San Francisco and is part of a worldly brood. She was born in Kuala Lumpur and grew up visiting Nana Irene in her village and Nenek Jariah in her kampung. Those beloved memories clearly inspire her whimsical, heartwarming debut, painted on tea-strained paper with gorgeous watercolors, all dazzlingly enhanced by her ingenious presentation.
Shelf Talker: This gloriously accomplished picture book debut is inspired by the author/artist’s childhood memories of visiting her grandmothers on opposite sides of the world.