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Monday, October 1, 2012

Oliver, written and illustrated by Judith Rossell. Harper, 2012. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"How can I breathe underwater
like a fish?" asked Oliver.
'Fish don't splash like that,"
called Mom. "Fish are very quiet."
Oliver pulled out the plug. "What
lives down the drain?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Mom. "Just pipes."
"There's something down there,"
shouted Oliver."

I don't know if you live with a young child who is full of questions, or if you just remember those times as I do. Erin and Bret are much older now and don't live at someone else is answering their adult questions. But, I do remember them, and how tired I often was while trying to answer them. (4 a.m.: Mom, did cavemen talk?) Oliver's mother is just like I was back in the day!

We don't ever meet her, but we can tell she is tired and ready to stop the barrage, at least for a little while. Oliver is one of those children who have questions about most anything, and he is serious.
When his mother answers his query about planes staying up in the sky with 'wings', he is off to map a plan for getting himself airborne. I love his inquisitive stance, his tongue sticking out as he ponders his problem, his plan for flight and his concentrated effort to get himself into the air. OOOPS!

He has questions about penguins, broccoli and whatever looks interesting while he is exploring the outdoors. A bath is suggested and taken; the questions do not end. How can he breathe like a fish? What lives in the drain? It's enough to try a mother's patience:

"Get dry, get dressed," said Mom. "And how about taking a nap?"
"I'm not tired," said Oliver.
"I am," said Mom. "You do something quiet.
Do some drawing."

So, Oliver does, and  and the submarine he draws is the 'just the ticket' to take him down the drain. WHOOOSH! Off he goes, not sure if he will return. It's so much fun. The penguins he meets are full of joy and adventure, and Oliver is delighted to spend time with them. No rules, no bedtime. When he begins to worry about his mom and her worries, he wants to get back home. The penguins are happy to oblige. Did she miss him?

Readers will be intrigued by this imaginative adventure. The color palette is warm and sunny.,..with yellows and oranges, soft greens and seaworthy blues. There is much to enjoy as Oliver gives his imagination full rein for finding what might be inside that drain and beyond. Collage elements will have attentive readers noticing broccoli that passes itself off as trees and brown paper pieces as islands.  Judith Rossell also uses watercolor, pencil, and crayons to help us feel part of Oliver's life and learning. The pages are filled with eye-catching detail and will allow young readers a chance to join in the action and have some real fun!

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