the Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times #1 best-seller, now in a sturdy format perfect for pig-loving toddlers everywhere!
The New Yorker artist Ian Falconer's endearing charcoal portraits of his porcine heroine are spotted with fire-engine red gouache in all the right places--perhaps a tribute to Hilary Knight's red, pink, white, and black celebrations of Olivia's human counterpart? When she dresses up, the bow on her ears, her red lipstick, and her high-heeled shoes are all red. (The only time her shades-of-gray body is pink is when she is sunburned and the area where her bathing suit was is white!) Falconer does a fine job of letting the spare text set up the jokes for the visual punch lines--a dryly humorous interplay that adults will appreciate as much as children.
Preschoolers (and their parents) will see themselves in Olivia--a typical high-energy, over-the-top kid who likes the beach and Degas paintings, but hates naps. On the other hand, she combs her ears and is unusually gifted at sandcastle building. While we are certainly reminded of Eloise, Falconer's portrait is simpler in scope, less demented, and, as a result, less adult. Bottom line: precocious is fun, and we're tickled pink to have Olivia join the parade of, let's just say, individualistic youngsters. (Ages 4 to 8) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This one was lucky enough to be written by someone with enough publishing connections to get hyped to death. All the library and trade journals had HUGE ads touting this book, and as a result, demand is high. I'm going to have to buy every durned Olivia book that comes along the pike for the next few years. But this is not the fabulous, marvelous masterpiece people are making it out to be! The best picture books in general have text and pictures that work together. Take away the illustrations in Olivia, and there'd be nothing there.
As someone else said, borrow it from your library--we could use the circulation and your tax dollars pay for stuff like this.
And while you're at it, take a look at Lillian Hoban's Frances books, Kevin Henkes's books about Lily and all the other really great books that will be around for years to come. I doubt that these will.
Reviewer Dwight Garner recently noted in his New York Times Book Review that, " 'Olivia' is one of those kids' books... that hip mommies and daddies like to give to the children of other hip mommies and daddies in order to demonstrate, yet again, what delightfully hip mommies and daddies we all are". There's no denying that this book is decidedly hip. I've yet to see a mom in a children's book look as particularly metropolitan (read: New Yorkish) as Olivia's black clad momma. And when Olivia creates a castle, she doesn't go halfway. She creates a sand-skyscraper. Mr. Garner does bring up an interesting point, though. Is "Olivia" something kids actually love and hold dear to their hearts, or is it something that parents love and hope their kids will get into? Who doesn't want their children to be inspired by a character that reads about Maria Callas before she goes to bed?
I don't know how kids feel about the story. But what I do know is that it's a quality piece of work. The art is beautiful. The story sublime. Plus it's a riot. Olivia stuffed into one of the legs of her mother's pantyhose is a black and white joke hidden in the corner of a colorful montage of Olivia wearing her full wardrobe (love the ballgown).
"Olivia" is not going to change the world of children's book publishing. And perhaps it's only ever going to be fully appreciated by people over the age of 18. But with all the crummy two-bit picture books out there ("Love You Forever" anyone?) sometimes it's just a small slice of heaven to read something to your child that's enjoyable to them and fun for you as well.