Adam Stower is best known here for illustrating wonderful chapter books, like Daniel Pinkwater's Mrs. Noodlekugel series and Andrew Clements's Keepers of the School series. His illustrations are expressive and detailed, reminding me of one of my favorites, Chris Riddell. And, while I love Stower's work in these books, I have to admit that I almost didn't review his newest picture book, Troll and the Oliver. I first read it at home on my own with a huge pile of review copies in front of me. Then, I took it to school with me and read it to a class of first graders visiting the library. Then kindergartners. Then fourth graders. I never got tired of reading Troll and the Oliver out loud and there didn't seem to be a cut off to the age of readers who enjoyed hearing it, making it perfect for reviewing!
Troll and the Oliver has a fairy tale feel to it that readers will instantly feel comfortable with. The story begins in the illustrations that precede the text, so pay attention! Echoes of the story of Little Red Riding Hood ripple through Troll and the Oliver, although bad guy is the star of this story. Troll tries to eat the Oliver every day at lunchtime as he walks through the woods to the market. And every day the Oliver escapes his furry paws, singing a saucy little song that will remind readers of the sassy Gingerbread Boy. It takes a reading or two to get used to saying, "the Oliver," or "an Oliver," so you might want to have a read through on your own first.
Tired of failure, Troll finally gives up and eats twigs and stones. You almost feel sorry for him! The point of view switches to a baffled Oliver, who finally realizes that Troll has given up trying to eat him! Bouncing through his kitchen where he is baking something that is clearly sweet and delicious, the Oliver sings one final song. This two page spread has an extra half page that is well camouflaged. The right side of the page, which is dominated by a large cupboard, flips to reveal Troll jumping out and eating the Oliver whole with one big CHOMP! I absolutely LOVE seeing the expressions on the kids's faces when I read this page! Little kids never get eating in a picture book, so this always makes them gasp. To their relief, the next page reveals Troll spitting the Oliver out because he tastes revolting. However, as the illustration above reveals, Troll and the Oliver find common ground. The Oliver never has to worry about being eaten again and Troll never goes hungry.
Stower ends his brilliant book with an author's note on how to fend off hungry trolls as well as a recipe from "Trolliver's Cookbook" for Troll Cupcakes that sounds delicious! While researching Adam Stower for this review, I discovered that he has written a sequel to Troll and the Oliver - Grumbug! Book two finds Troll and the Oliver running a successful cafe in the forest where they feed baked sweets to all the hungry trolls. Trouble arises when the Oliver's little sister goes missing. It seems she just might have wandered into the cave of the fiercest troll of all, the Grumbug... No publication date (yet) for Grumbug! in the US.
More picture books by Adam Stower:
Source: Review Copy