My 2 year old daughter loves this book. We got it out of the library originally and she's demanded it ever since it's been returned (she doesn't seem to have grasped the whole library concept!) so we've ended up buying a copy for her.
Olivia forming a band isn't a major part of the story so don't let it put you off - there are also fireworks and all the usual Olivia mischief.
This is a lovely book - beautifully illustrated and amusing for us adults reading it to our kids. My daughter likes the books a lot, but this one is slightly on the too-long side and she lost a bit of interest.
To an adult, Olivia in this story displays all of the most frustrating aspects of crossing the generation gap such as obsessing over something that doesn't matter (matching two red socks from a drawer full of seemingly identical socks), insisting on doing something that cannot be easily done (being a one-person band), switching interests at the drop of diaper, not cleaning up after herself despite reminders, taking hyperbole literally, being impatient when something cannot be rushed (like the start of fireworks), and wanting to pursue activities that are too grown-up (such as wearing lipstick).
To a toddler, Olivia is a wunderkind of amazing imagination, ambition, and freshness. Her attention span is about as long as the toddler's, but she has more interesting things on her mind. Her obsessions aren't so different from a toddler's obsessions. She's fussy about her clothes as toddler's often are. She suggests the exciting possibility of veering towards aspects of adulthood, going beyond a youngster walking around in her mother's shoes. She's good at quoting back to her mother things that she said that support Olivia's point, expressing that important desire to be independent.
Of course, the drawings beautifully express the adult-toddler humor at both levels while employing a powerful minimalism. But the minimalism is expanded upon here. To the traditional black, white, and red for Olivia, Ian Falconer adds a turquoise hue for the drawings beginning with Olivia dressing up to be a band. Ian Falconer succeeds in using a variety of techniques to get across loud sound (some musical notes in ff, and seven images of Olivia with different instruments with each image multiplied as though in an echo chamber), Olivia's cleverness and hyperactivity (a series of 10 drawings on two facing pages as Olivia extracts what she needs from her family to make her band instruments, including the removal of her father's much needed suspenders with dire consequences), Olivia's optimism (dreaming of herself as chief justice of the Supreme Court . . . something no little pig has done before), burlesque sequences (three panels of Olivia's mother entering her room, loud noises emerging from the dark, and Olivia's mother wearing broken and misplaced band instruments), and a child's reality (sitting in the dark watching fireworks).
Like all of the best children's books, this one will invite much discussion between parent and child about the pros and cons of what Olivia does that will provide lots of opportunities for gentle teaching and learning.
Strike up the band!
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