Maia and Nico are inseparable. Best friends forever, they do everything together. When Nico’s family moves to Australia, Maia is left alone for the first time, and Nico’s place is taken by dark hole that follows her around.
The miserable, dark hole deters other children, and keeps her from finding joy in anything. Over time, Maia meets a little white cat, which opens her heart some, and she finally makes a new friend. She discovers a love for the piano and revels in the spring. Maia’s life becomes so full, in fact, that when Nico returns she worries that she will have no space for him. Have things changed too much? Has she moved on? Has he?
In Olea’s illustrations, all other people and things are drawn as outlines, accentuating that they are each other’s world, that when they are together all else takes a backseat. It’s a gorgeous, practical choice, bringing the form of the book into line with the content of the story, and it adds a layer of artfulness that is often left out of illustration.
Maturana’s spare text is perfect. She doesn’t clog things up with unnecessarily poetic language, and says just enough to let the reader’s imagination (and Olea’s artwork) do most of the heavy lifting. This is not a criticism, but a massive compliment. Her restraint is phenomenal. She even delivers the moral in fewer than ten words.
Two artists working at the tops of their respective games have created what could very well become the go-to book for kids losing a friend to distance, but more than that, they’ve created a story that speaks to a universal truth: We ll feel alone sometimes, but those lonely times, as hard as they might be, will pass. We are resilient.
* Note: Life Without Nico was originally published in Spanish in 2014 under the title La Vida Sin Santi.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Life Without Nico in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy here.