Written by: Ian Falconer
Illustrated by: Ian Falconer
Age Range: 3 and up
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Awards: Caldecott Honor
“Olivia” is about a young pig and her family. She lives with her mother, father, younger brother Ian, dog Perry, and cat Edwin. Olivia is good at lots of things and has a tendency for wearing people out (including herself).
The story shows what Olivia is like and how she interacts with her loving family. Olivia has a lot of energy and is a dreamer. When she looks at a painting in the museum, she imagines herself as the figure in the painting.
After a bold painting mishap at home, Olivia and her mother negotiate and agree to read 3 books before bed. The story ends with Olivia dreaming about herself as the protagonist in the story she read with her mother just before falling asleep.
What Worked For Me
Olivia is a strong-willed, very energetic girl who goes to the beat of her own drum. She reminds me of my own daughter, which in turn makes me enjoy this book even more.
The line “Last year, when she was little, her mother showed her how to make sand castles.” My daughter says the same thing to her little brother. “When I was little…” It makes me smile because she’s currently 4 years old and her brother is 2.
The illustrations are black and white with the exception of red. The use of the color red with Olivia does a wonderful job of showing how unique and bold Olivia is. She’s not just another little pig.
A scene I could directly relate to was when Olivia wouldn’t go to sleep during nap time. My kids rarely fall asleep during nap time. So much so that we now call it “quiet time” instead. I love it when a book can pull me in with a parenting situation I can relate to.
I smiled when Olivia couldn’t relate to the Jackson Pollock-esque painting at the art museum. I’m with you on that one, Olivia.
Another scene I can relate to as a parent is when Olivia’s mom walks into her room and finds Olivia has tried to recreate that same Jackson Pollock-esque painting from the museum. Finding out your kids colored all over the walls is never a pleasant surprise.
Olivia negotiating how many books her mom will read to her before bed is yet another experience parents can relate to.
I also really enjoyed how Olivia dreams about being the protagonist in the piece of art she’s looking at or the book she’s reading. Her imagination is wonderful.
What Didn’t Work For Me
When Olivia paints on the wall, I thought she deserved more than a time out for her actions. I would have liked to see a scene where Olivia had to help get the paint off the wall. Showing their are consequences to your actions is a message that could have been explored in more detail here.
I’m not certain how much my kids learned from the story. My kids enjoyed the story, but I think I have enjoyed it more actually. There are so many scenes that parents can relate to, which is great, but as I’m writing this review I’m beginning to think this book is written more for parents than kids. This is just how I’m feeling about the book after reading it with my kids a few times.
Here’s the metric I use: When you’re a parent and your child asks to read this book 3 or more days in a row, how likely are you to want to jump head first through a wall?
The story has a good cadence and the illustrations are excellent. The book didn’t have my kids overly curious or intrigued about what would happen on the next page though. I was surprised the book didn’t hold the attention of my kids as well as I thought it would. It’s a good book, but my kids haven’t requested to read it over and over again.
The book is enjoyable for kids and adults, though I think adults will relate to the book a bit more than your kids will. That being said, I think your kids will enjoy the story and the illustrations. Give it a read and let me know what you think!
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