Olivia (©2000) written and illustrated by Ian Falconer is a slice-of-life story about a spirited young pig. Olivia loves to play dress up, build sandcastles at the beach, and visit the art museum with her mother. When Olivia sees her favorite painting of ballet dancers, she imagines herself as a ballerina dancing on a grand stage. The illustrations – sparse black-and-white drawings with pops of red – earned the book a Caldecott honor.
In Olivia Goes to Venice (©2010) readers follow the precocious pig on a whirlwind adventure to Italy! Olivia and her family take a vacation to Venice, full of sightseeing, gondola rides through the Grand Canal, and lots and lots of gelato. The story is cute, of course, but the illustrations are absolutely inspired. Falconer uses photographs of Venice as the backdrop for his hand-drawn characters.
My personal favorite of the series is the recent installment, Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (©2012). Olivia is having an identity crisis. All the other little girls want to be pink-clad princesses, but Olivia wants to stand out from the crowd. Olivia asks some important questions, and wonders why princesses are always associated with glitter and pink (“There are alternatives,” she says). Her quest for individuality will make readers smile – and think.
Fans of classics like Eloise and Madeline will love Olivia. I recommend this series for ages 3-7.
Other Books in the Olivia Series: