If you’re drowning in all things pink and frilly, and the thought of shopping for another sparkly tiara and wispy wand this Halloween has you less than enthused, I’ve got the perfect book for you to share with your little one. In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, the latest in the popular Olivia series by Ian Falconer, the precocious piglet with a healthy ego is feeling depressed. With her usual flair for drama, she announces to her parents that she’s having an identity crisis: “I don’t know what I should be … All the girls want to be princesses.” At birthday parties, school dance recitals, and on Halloween, the girls—and even some of the boys, Olivia points out—show up in pink, sparkly skirts and little crowns. And that’s the problem: Being part of the crowd is just not her style: For instance, for Halloween Olivia went as a warthog while the other girls dressed up as—you guessed it—princesses. “It was very effective,” says Olivia, as we see her in a homely costume with tusks, warts and all while her horrified pink-dressed classmates cower in the corner at a school party. “Why do they all want to be the same?” Olivia asks. Proving that she’s not just a pretty porcine face, Olivia makes some smart observations: “If everyone’s a princess, then princesses aren’t special anymore!” And she wonders why princesses always come in one flavor: Pink. We see Olivia dressed as a princess from India, Thailand, Africa, and China, as she remarks, “There are alternatives.”
Olivia is still wrestling with her dilemma at bedtime. When Mom opens up a book of fairy tales, she objects to the story about Rapunzel because a prince rescues her and turns her into a princess. So Mom switches to the tale of the Little Match Girl. That doesn’t appeal to Olivia, either, because—well, freezing in the snow is just not her thing. Finally, as she’s lying in bed wide awake and thinking about what she could be, Olivia comes up with the perfect identity for her larger-than-life personality.
Young and old Olivia fans won’t be disappointed. As always, Falconer’s elegant charcoal-and-gouache illustrations—filled with sly humorous touches that parents appreciate—are divine. Young readers won’t get some of the humor and words (try explaining “corporate malfeasance” to your kindergartner!). But that doesn’t get in the way of kids—even those with an affinity for pink tutus—from being entertained by this little piggy’s brash musings and resistance to all things pink.
Are you an Olivia fan? What is your favorite Olivia book?
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Sandra Lee Rella, mother of two budding bookworms, is a freelance editor and writer, and a former children’s book review editor.
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