Skip to main content

Oliver by Birgitta Sif



Oliver by Birgitta Sif is most definitely a picture book worth buying. Oliver has the essential qualities of being richly illustrated with new details to be uncovered with every successive reading while also being superbly written with a story that is so well crafted and streamlined that it turns back on itself beautifully, even though not unexpectedly. Picture books that have a twist as the end (think I Want My Hat Back by the brilliant Jon Klassen who said, "Picture books at their best are suggestive") are fantastically fun to read and hard to write, but so are picture books that take a common theme and make it feel new and different, which is exactly what Oliver does.

 Oliver begins, "Oliver felt a bit different. But it didn't matter. He lived in his own world, happily, with his friends." That is Oliver on the bus with one of his friends, a gaggle of hand puppets and, if you look closely, a little mouse who follows him around, entertained by all that Oliver does. The story follows Oliver through the adventures he has with his friends, in the library reading, the living room climbing the sofa or riding a camel made out of a cardboard box, or the sandbox digging to the other side of the world. Sometimes, though, "there were things Oliver had to do on his own," but, as we watch Oliver glide through a swimming pool, his friends sitting at the edge of the pool looking on, we know that this is just as acceptable and okay as Oliver's other solo pursuits.

Then, one day, Oliver's friends don't listen when he is playing the piano for them. And the next day, when he is playing tennis outside by himself his ball bounces and rolls away and Oliver chases after it, his friends in tow. He goes through a "narrow gate to somewhere new. It was the beginning of the best adventure he's ever had." What he finds is a kindred spirit, another loner with a wagon full of friends who turns out to be a great tennis partner, among other things. The penultimate illustration of the book shows Oliver and his new friend Olivia behind a puppet stage putting on a show. The last page of the book shows the puppet stage from the front, an audience filled with stuffed animals and the final words, "The End," crossed out and "The Beginning" written in. Brilliant!

In a final note, I read this book out loud to my son and we both completely enjoyed it. However, half way through I noticed something in the illustrations and we went back and started reading from page one all over again. If you look closely, you'll notice yet another aspect of Oliver that makes it such an excellent book - Olivia is in the book right from the start! But, like Oliver, you just need to know where to look for her.



Comments

Brenda said…
Beautiful illustrations. Thank you for the review, defiantly keeping an eye out for that one.

Popular posts from this blog

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…