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Review: Oliver November 3, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But really, a picture book with two hand puppets facing off? Held by a protagonist in a turtleneck and boxy glasses? Clearly, I was destined to fall in love with this book.

Oliver, as introduced by debut author Birgitta Sif, feels a bit different but is mostly happy. The charming illustrations, which owe something to Quentin Blake, show him enjoying adventures in couch cushion and shoebox versions of oceans and deserts. He is accompanied by stuffed animals, but no other children. And life is good. But eventually there are some things, like playing piano or tennis, that need another person to make them worthwhile. So thanks to a wayward ball, Oliver finds the perfect friend to join him in his adventures…Olivia!

This is one of those perfect books that can play multiple roles: it can both open a child’s eyes to the way other people experience the world, as well as reassure a child that their character, their personality, is ok. I can see a teacher reading this to a group of kindergarteners and leading a gentle discussion about Oliver. Does he look like he’s having fun? What games would you like to play with Oliver? What game would you invite him to join? Should we make puppets today that look like that? I can also see a parent reading this book to a child who is often solitary and letting them know, without ever saying it directly, that yes, you will find friends who understand you and who see the world the same way that you do. As someone who is an introvert and often finds life much easier when lived on my own, I’ve always been very grateful for the friends who have found me and let me know that yes, others do see the world in the slightly odd way that I do. This book is a lovely reminder of the importance of living life the way you want, but also being open to new friends and experiences.

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