By Chris Wilson
Everything makes little Nina mad. She gets upset when her parents don’t know what she likes, when she gets blamed for something she didn’t do, when she tries hard and others do not, when grown-ups don’t let her help, when she does something nice and no one notices and especially when she has to wait.
Like Nina, our little ones get mad easily. What’s important to them is not necessarily life threatening to us. I am reminded of my kindergarten students who fight to be the first in line just to come inside my door. Who cares? Kids care.
My favorite NINA episode is When You Let Me Pick And I Pick The Wrong Thing. Nina is given a choice between the park and the museum. She chooses the museum. As they travel on their way, she remembers there is a big dinosaur in the museum. The closer they get the more she thinks about that scary green devil. True to form, Nina hits the steps of the museum and begs to go to the park instead. We don’t know the outcome. It’s not important, although I know how I would handle that situation. I can’t help but wonder what happened next.
Hilary Knight’s layout is comprised of two-page layouts per story. Each story starts with a single image title page followed by a 4-7 panel story. The tousle-haired Nina is the epitome of children’s literature. She is artfully drawn to be a kid who kids will love.
There are two bathroom scenes in the book. The first is in When You Get Mad At Me And I Didn’t Do It on pages 8-9. Nina is in the bathroom taking a bath with her baby brother. We can see Nina’s nipple and Tony is sitting on the floor naked.
The second instance is in the chapter, When You Don’t Let Me Help. Nina wants desperately to help her mother change baby Tony’s diaper. His bottom and his penis are both depicted.
Both instances are, of course, very tasteful and appropriate. However, it is not always appropriate for all schools or communities. I would feel compelled to ask my principal and librarian for permission before putting it into open check-out circulation. As a teacher, I would use any of the other stories with students without hesitation or permission. This should not preclude an educator from purchasing the title. I simply suggest a quick look at the pages first to determine if it will potentially violate any community standards.
Chris’ Rating: Ages 6-8
Publisher’s Rating: Grades 1-2
Lexile Level: GN 170s
Guided Reading Level: G-J
Reading Recovery: 11-17
IN THE CLASSROOM
NINA is a necessary book for children and grown-ups because we see Nina’s thought process. More importantly, kids can see and analyze Nina’s thought process and situation. Why does something make her mad? Should it? Has this ever happened to you? It’s a good book to get kids to think about their emotions and talk about their feelings. I can see a teacher, counselor or parent using this book to help children explore their anger.
The truth is, it’s also a good reminder of how adults can do better by kids. We shouldn’t promise and then forget. Our word of honor must stand for something. On the other hand, NINA also has lessons for children. Nina may get mad wen she looks and can’t find something, but did she really look hard enough? The answer, as any teacher or parent knows, is laughable. Yes, Nina’s little teddy was in the closet. She just didn’t look well enough.
Based on a Text by: Steven Kroll
Author & Illustrator: Hilary Knight
Publisher: Toon Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: Reinforced Library Binding
Color: Full color