Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

Olivia
By Ian Falconer
Picture book
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012
Ages 3 and up
ISBN: 978-1-4424-5027
#1 New York Times bestseller* #1 Publishers Weekly bestseller

Back when I was little, I went to Hannah Krohner School of Dance in Queens. I would tap dance in our bathroom until the neighbors banged on the ceiling to quiet me. Then, I’d slip into my ballet slippers and head to the edge of the kitchen sink (my barre) and practice pliés. I had no talent to speak of. Just enthusiasm.

Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to the newest Ian Falconer picture book, Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. In this seventh adventure, we find our bovine darling depressed and facing an “identity crisis.” Must she be a Degas-style ballerina like the other girls?

Uh-oh. Olivia is a strong girl, and she was bound to discover the awful limitations of aspiring to be a princess or another delicate thing. Life as a part of the gentle herd simply isn’t bold enough for a pig who can pull off matador pants and pearls. No, what Olivia wants is a rebirth of her soul, a real future as a girl of substance.

As usual, Falconer (whose work you might recognize from The New Yorker) has created a new picture book with plenty of punch lines for both the child and the adult. The vocabulary absolutely requires a partnership for reading and conversation, but I think that’s a good thing. What works best in my view are the visual gags for both the parent and child, including a gorgeous two-page spread of Olivia as a Martha Graham contemporary dancer.

Who needs pink tulle when what you really want is to rule your world? MM

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