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