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Olivia Board book – October 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 296 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Olivia would be Eloise, if Eloise were a pig. She is good at singing 40 very loud songs and is very good at wearing people out. And scaring the living daylights out of her little brother, Ian, particularly when he copies her every move. She is also quite skilled at reproducing Jackson Pollock's "Autumn Rhythm #30" on the walls at home. When her mother tucks her in at night and says, "You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway," Olivia precociously pronounces, "I love you anyway too."

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 Audible Audio Edition edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Come one, come all for this extraordinary debut for both Falconer and his unforgettable porcine heroine. The author/artist begins this day-in-the-life tale with a kind of behind-the-scenes peek at Olivia. Articles from her wardrobe are strewn across the endpapers-red tights, red sunglasses, a red T-shirt and red tank top-until the title page reveals her selection: a red sailor dress with black-and-white striped tights. "This is Olivia./ She is good at lots of things," the narrator begins, like an emcee introducing the star of the show. The genius of the volume is its economy: the brief text brilliantly plays off the artwork, rendered only in shades of red and black with an occasional background setting; a deceptively simple design unifies each spread. For one such spread, demonstrating "She is very good at wearing people out," Falconer shows Olivia engaged in a variety of activities in 13 black-and-white vignettes, using red sparingly-for a hammer handle, a yo-yo, a ball, a mixing bowl spatula and a jump rope-as she progresses from energetic to spent. Against a completely white background, these vignettes seem to bob on invisible undulating waves, with the intermittent splashes of red creating a sense of movement and urgency-until Olivia's collapse at the lower right-hand corner of the spread beneath a single line of text ("She even wears herself out"). The few full scenes amplify the deadpan humor: a beach setting allows for the full impact of Olivia's spectacular sandcastle model of the Empire State Building; a full-bleed black-and-white image of a tutu- and tiara-clad Olivia bowing to unseen fans answers the narrator's question "What could she be thinking?" as she stares at her favorite painting, featuring Degas's ballerinas, in a museum. Whether in full scenes or vignettes, Falconer keeps the focus on his inimitable protagonist. He clearly understands his audience: a standout spread shows Olivia getting dressed in her red-only wardrobe ("She has to try on everything") in 17 separate fashion poses. Falconer's choice to suggest Olivia with a minimum of details and a masterful black line allows readers to really identify with her-no doubt, they will. There's a little bit of Olivia in everyone. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 2 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
  • Lexile Measure: AD270L (What's this?)
  • Board book: 34 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689874723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689874727
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"This is Olivia," begins Ian Falconer's delightful picture book about a precocious piglet. "She is good at lots of things." In charming and hilarious illustrations, Olivia's busy adventures take her through dress-up, playing with her cat, going to the beach and museum, (reluctantly) taking a nap, and going to bed after just one story...no, three stories.
This simply is one of the finest children's picture books of the year, and sure to be named on everyone's Top of 2000 list. Quietly humorous and tongue-in-cheek narration, fluid and expressive black-and-white-and-red artwork, and the charming portrayal of the busy and mischievous Olivia make this an instant classic. Sight gags abound (Olivia's ambitious sandcastle, her pink-pink sunburn, her dreams of being a ballerina, and her songbook "40 Very Loud Songs") and Falconer, a New Yorker cover artist and theatre designer, portrays the never-ending energy of a tiny pig, er, girl, with wit and charm.
Don't miss this one: suitable for all ages from the very young to the very old, "Olivia" is the prize of the season. It's the kind of book kids will be begging to have read to them before bed: bargaining for not once, not twice, but three times.
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Format: Hardcover
As the first page states..."This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things." And she is. Good at wearing people out, scaring her brother, combing her ears, getting dressed, building sand castles, painting...everything but napping. She's a precocious, feisty, imaginative, wonderful little pig. Ian Falconer has captured the essence of a pre-schooler in his first children's book. His short, simple text is complimented by his expressive black and white illustrations, with just a touch of bright red to highlight the right parts. This is a book your youngsters will want to read again and again, as they see a bit of themselves in Olivia. A must for all home libraries, Olivia is sure to become a classic.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Ian Falconer's New Yorker covers, and now I love Olivia too. I only discovered Olivia just this afternoon while I was browsing at the local bookstore. Olivia reminds one of Elopise, but at the same time, it's nice to see her with parents and siblings. I was enchanted by this book, I laughed out loud, and darn it all... if I had only had a few bucks more, I would have bought it. The prose is simple, but sharp and direct, and the artwork is hysterical (especially when Olivia's brother is shown copying everything she does.)
Even more fun is Olivia's appreciation for art and the like. Imagine a little kid wanting a Callas picture book read to them. It's touches like this that make Olivia the clear winner as one of the best picture books to emerge this past year. I am hoping Falconer will write a few more books about this precious piglet. In the meantime, be proud to buy a copy of this book for yourself, even if you don't have any kids. It will definitely be the literary high point of your week.
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Format: Hardcover
Olivia is a young, energetic pig who "is good at lots of things." She likes to run, play dress-up, build sand castles, and scare her little brother away. In fact, Olivia has so much energy, that her mother finds it hard to get her take a nap during the day. Like most children, Olivia has bigger and better things to do than worry about a little sleep, especially when she could be at a museum looking at her favorite picture. Also like other children, Olivia gets inspired and decides to paint a picture on her own bedroom wall. All her adventures during the day make Olivia a typical child. Before the end of the day, Olivia really wears out her poor parents. As a tradition in many families, Olivia's mother still finds the strength to read her a few books before bedtime. And when all is said and done, her mother still loves her anyways.
Like many children, Olivia is into many activities and uses her energy to the full extent. This book allows children to feel comfortable and secure in knowing that they can play all day, make mistakes, and wear their parents out without losing their love. It provokes children to be energetic and creative while enjoying the tales of lovable pig who inspires them to play and create.
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Format: Hardcover
What I loved:

The artwork.
The artwork.
The artwork.

The skill and subtly of shading is breathtaking. The minimalist palette (black & white plus red) is brave, and certainly helps to highlight key elements (mostly Olivia's clothes!). I am reminded of the ghost-activated inventory in The Sixth Sense. In any case it should come as no surprise that Mr. Falconer is a talented set designer.

What I didn't love:

The many examples of poor behavior.

I can accept that a piglet like Olivia has an ego bigger than her size belies. But letting a young child act out in a selfish and often destructive manner is no recipe for success. Maybe it works in a pigpen but then again, Olivia is anthropomorphized so we must hold her to a higher standard than most swine.

Painting on the walls à la Pollock and intentionally frightening her younger brother are actions not to be admired or laughed at. Olivia's parents are of course complicit to some degree. Allowing her to try on upwards of twenty outfits every morning, and negotiating before bedtime, would never stand in this house. Finally, and possibly most egregious, the goodnight exchange of "I love you anyway" seems far from a secure and sincere expression of love.
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