Nora the Mind Reader by Orit Gidali, illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy, translated by Annette Appel
Nora comes home from kindergarten one day and sadly tells her mother about the boy who called her “flamingo legs.” Even though she’s not quite sure what a flamingo is, she does know that her feelings have been hurt. Mommy goes looking “high and low … for her special wand for days that don’t seem to be filled with any magic at all.” With it, Nora “could see what people were saying as well as what they were really thinking.” What she quickly realizes is “that people don’t always say what they think or say what they think they are saying.”
At school the next day, her magic wand gives her new insight into her classmates. “I don’t feel like playing,” means “I don’t feel like losing.” A testy “Who wants to be your friend anyway,” really means “I do!” A not-so-nice “You ask too many questions” is an envious “You’re so smart.”
And what about that boy who could think of nothing better than to call Nora a dubious name? When Nora tells him exactly what she thinks of him – “‘You have a nice smile'” – she realizes that Harry (“for that was his name”), for all his smarts, just wants to be friends but doesn’t quite know how to express himself. Nora, of course, knows just what to do!
Orit Gidali, an Israeli poet, adds in her author bio that she wrote this, her first picture book, for her 6-year-old daughter and “that it’s based on real magic.” Gidali surely shared that magic with her illustrator, Aya Gordon-Noy, who imbues each page with gleeful hocus pocus. Her delightfully whimsical drawings are enhanced with clever, imaginative details – a flamingo stamp imprint, real titles on the bookshelf (including Gidali’s own Twenty Girls to Envy Me), the backgrounds of faded type (I wish I could read Hebrew!) that look like they just might be special incantations, and the magic wand itself which happens to be the only photograph overlay making it the most ‘real’ thing in the book! See? Magic is real!
Both creators also share quite the giggle-inducing sense of humor: the woe-is-me-fish in his claustrophobic bowl, the adorable puppy love epilogue, and especially the final page corner with Harry saying one thing, but really hoping for a little magic of his own: “I’ll do anything not to go to sleep yet”!
I’m with Harry … with such magic in the air, who has time to sleep? Move over, puppy! I think it’s my turn with that magic wand!
Tidbit: In the original Hebrew version of the book, our intrepid heroine has a different name – it’s Noona the Mind Reader, which I randomly stumbled on while searching online for a copy of Gidali’s Twenty Girls (no English translation seems available as yet). In Korean, “noona” means older sister (used only by younger brothers), which Thing 2 used to call Thing 1 when they were younger. Just seeing that title gave me a moment of magical memory. The book is dedicated “To Nooni [hence the original title?], who taught me the most important things of all,” which made me ever so grateful for my own ‘most important Things of all.’
Published: 2012 (United States)