Over a lifetime we tell thousands of tales. We recount happenings. We define and refine truths. We construct ourselves out of memories. Flashes of events. Snippets of fragile celluloid clipped and taped together to create a singular work. Our story. A history of who we were, and are, and how we wish others will remember us someday, when we are no longer.
When our voices fail, sometimes our faces reveal what we are unwilling or unable to speak. They act as a repository for memory — a counterbalance for the ephemerality of emotion. A smile line here, some crow’s feet there. Gravitational folds. Atrophic Crinkling Rhytids. They will tell your secrets — of worry and loss and heart swells and unchecked gladness. And as illustrated by Simona Ciraolo in The Lines on Nana’s Face, small children will not miss an opportunity to probe them.
Nana doesn’t mind the lines on her face. In fact, “Not at all…You see, it is in these lines that I keep all my memories,” she tells her toddler granddaughter. This is lucky, seeing as our pint-sized narrator has just pointed out that Nana’s wrinkles make Nana sometimes look like she might be, “a bit sad, and a little surprised, and slightly worried, all at the same time”. Kids say the darndest things — and in doing so create an opportunity for the uncomfortable to become explorable. Nana and her granddaughter wrinkle time together and unfold the secrets stored within the lines on Nana’s face. The result is remarkable.
Simona Ciraolo’s treatment of the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter is exquisite. She highlights the tactility and warmth shared between the two without neglecting the element of mystery small children can feel about a person two generations their elder. I admire the comfort Ciraolo allows Nana to have in her own skin, and the fluidity with which she moves her reader from moments of joy to moments of heartbreak without a need for words. Her silent, double panels are impactful to the point of drawing tears. The book is achingly beautiful — from the cover art, to the binding, to the endpapers, the feel and weight of the paper. It has all been lovingly considered. This is a story to treasure and share — but don’t be surprised if your littles use the opportunity to do some probing of their own.