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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer. Atheneum, Simon & Schuster. 2012. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"I think I'm having an
identity crisis," she told
her parents.
"I don't know what I
should be."
"Well, " said her father,
"you'll always be my little
"That's the problem," said

Olivia! I have missed you! I'm overjoyed to see you again.

There are many adjectives to be used when describing this feisty, independent, opinionated, wily, brilliant, young pig. I fell in love with her when she was first brought to my attention in Ian Falconer's debut book for this inspired series, simply called Olivia (Simon & Schuster, 2000). There we met an exuberant young porker who was very good at wearing people out and scaring the pants off her younger brother Ian. Thank goodness, she hasn't changed.

Her concern these days is the plethora of princesses that come out of the woodwork every time little girls (and boys) get together. She is distraught, seeking guidance from her parents while determined to remain true to herself.All the other girls at Pippa's birthday party looked alike, thought alike, danced daintily together. Olivia made a statement:

"I chose a simple French sailor shirt, matador pants, black flats, a strand of pearls, sunglasses, a red bag, and my gardening hat."

She's back...bravo, Olivia!     

She's even willing to be a princess.. there 'are alternatives' to pink, tiaraed and tutued. You go, girl!

Olivia recognizes that there was a time when she wanted to take the princess role. She has simply outgrown it. She doesn't understand why all of her friends and schoolmates want to be the same. She has other aspirations, including:

"Or I could be a reporter and expose corporate malfeasance."

This brilliant artist imbues every single page with Olivia, Olivia, Olivia. I could not love her more, and Ian Falconer also shows a splendid love for her. The charcoal and gouache characters are infused with emotions that crack me up...the unimpressed teacher taking umbrage to Olivia's blue warthog costume which sets off a frantic fear in the bevy of perfect princesses at Halloween, the tearful bedtime ritual of stories that evoke sad feelings for the downtrodden, the imagined ministering of a nurse practicing bandaging and 'various other treatments' on her brothers, and the after bath diva, clothed in striped richness before brushing her teeth.

Again, his use of brilliant red detail keeps us constantly focused on this precious, perky, precocious, porcine prima donna....exactly where it should be!

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