Sunday, January 31, 2010
OLIVIA (Picture Book)
Author/Illustrator: Ian Falconer
Publisher: Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books (October 1, 2000)
Hardcover: 40 pages
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Ian Falconer, author/illustrator of the Olivia series, kicks off his first book with the following lines:
"This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things. She is very good at wearing people out. She even wears herself out."
As I read those words, I can imagine every parent or preschool teacher shaking their head in a knowing manner. Yes, we all know an "Olivia". And to every young child who hears the story of Olivia, there are countless giggles that spontaneously erupt in response to her antics. Falconer's Olivia series appeals just as much to his young audience as it does the adults in their lives.
Ian Falconer's simple charcoal illustrations with red, pink, and white highlights speak volumes and enhance the sparse text. In reading the story, I was pleased with how well the author/illustrator manages to capture the essence of an active, precocious child embodied in this porcine heroine. The story follows Olivia through her day. From her developing self-help skills (brushing her teeth, combing her ears, and trying on myriads of clothes) to numerous play activities (building sandcastles, dancing, and painting) to refusing naps and negotiating the number of books she wants to read, the reader gets a sense of Olivia's never ending energy. However, it is the closing lines that truly pulls the story together for me. It is bedtime and Olivia's mother has just finished reading to her and says "'You know, you really wear me out, But I love you anyway.' And Olivia gives her a kiss back and says 'I love you anyway too.'"
Many of the books in the Olivia series are available in both Hardcover and paperback, but there are several board book versions that are also extremely well done and several of them have a texture quality to enhance Falconer's beautiful drawings. I would encourage parents and teachers of young children to explore all of the Olivia books and their various formats. The newest Olivia book Olivia Acts Out is probably one of my favorites. Olivia will win over both children and adults and become part of often requested titles in the home and school library.