Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer - Olivia Rules!

Olivia Pig. Opinionated. Creative. A girl with an attitude. A role model. 

When I first read Olivia, all those years ago, I was mesmerized. I found my kindred spirit! I had collected little porcelain piggies for years so it was natural that my family started buying me all sorts of Olivia swag. I have every book and numerous stuffed versions, but my favorite item, aside from the books themselves, is my "Reading never wears me out" bookmark.

The New York Times Book Review published a great review on August 23rd by Bruce Handy: "But even rugged individualism can turn sappy in the wrong author’s hands... I’m thinking especially of the increasing legions of celebrities who, when writing children’s books, seem compelled toward themes like “Free to be having a snit if that’s what I feel like today” and “Do not hate me because I am distinctive looking.”...... "Thank God for Ian Falconer and his Olivia. She is the popular school-age pig, the latest in a line of independent, high-spirited young ladies that goes back at least to Madeline and Eloise, and also includes Frances the badger and Lilly the mouse. Her seventh full-fledged adventure, “Olivia and the Fairy Princesses,” is, to my taste, her best since her introduction 12 years ago as a fashion-conscious, Degas-loving heroine with a thing for Maria Callas and a talent for “wearing people out.” She has since saved the circus, formed a band, lost a toy and visited Venice, where even the globe-trotting Eloise never set foot."

I could not agree more with Mr. Handy. This is the best one since the first. It has the attitude and positive influence girls need to break away from the 'princess mindset' of late. It's not a trendy attitude either, with head bobbing and fingers clicking whilst you say, "you know girl" in some uncommon vernacular. Olivia just simply has confidence. Period. It's not forced on us. It's not hype. Olivia is unique because she is unique, not because she wants to be unique, or expects you to mimic her. In fact, if you mimic her, she will change her mind and go another direction.

And don't get me started on what Nickelodeon did to her!!! This preview link will give you an idea why this book is right on track with the "real" Olivia, not that CG version on Nickelodeon! Disgusting.

If you have somehow managed to miss Olivia in her "real" form. Start with the first, but also check this book out. Even though it is a simply worded picture book, there are some great possibilities for intermediate study also. I would use it to teach the effects of bandwagoning techniques, discuss what being an individual really means and maybe even what "princess" means to various cultures.

BUY Olivia and the Fairy Princesses HERE

© 2007-2012 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Son by Lois Lowry - The conclusion to The Giver

If you read my 'about me' page or if you've even barely read a bit of this blog, you know that I adore Lois Lowry. I adore Anastasia. I adore Gooney Bird. I adore Annemarie. I adore Jonas and Gabriel. Lowry's writing, even when her tale wanders a bit (Messenger & Gossamer), is golden - tight and descriptive all at once.

So, even though I was one of those folks who absolutely hated to see the ambiguity of The Giver shattered when she wrote Gathering Blue and Messenger, I will be running to my local bookstore on October 2nd. And since they have redesigned the other three books in the quartet to match this fantastic cover, I guess I am going to have to donate my old copies and buy the set!

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead - book review

Publisher's Synopsis: "The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end."

I love When You Reach Me and was excited to begin Liar & Spy.  I grabbed it the minute it came and headed for my favorite reading spot. I made it to about page 20 before I was nodding off. I chalked that up to a long work day and tried again the next afternoon. Snooze. Long story short, it took me a long time to get through it. I stuck with it out of respect for the fine writing and the desire to see if Stead could pull off the twist ending again (she did).

Liar & Spy just doesn't have that kid appeal that held my interest with When You Reach Me.  Stead's an excellent writer with a tight story and well developed characters. Even though they were very well-drawn, I just wasn't interested in them. There was an undercurrent of melancholy, a sadness, that permeated the whole thing. When you get to the ending, you see that Stead did this on purpose (as part of that surprise ending), but it just created a depression in the story that left me flat.

I hated when I saw reviews like this with regard to When You Reach Me. I wanted to point out all the amazing things that Stead does in her writing; and she does it again with Liar & Spy.  Due to the strong writing, there will be many readers who enjoy the tale. I'm just not certain the average 10 year old will be engaged with this one.

-------------------- Resources --------------------
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: 9 and up
Pages: 192
Themes: Family Life & Challenges, Friendship, Honesty, Difficult Choices, Bullies
Character Development: Interesting group of children and adults with a few quirks
Plot Engagement: Develops slowly and methodically, strong readers needed
Originality: quirky family + economically challenged family = Eh, so so
Believability: Nothing that takes it out of the norm
Thank You to publisher for my advanced copy
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books ( a division of Random House Books)
Date: August 7, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0385737432
Buy Liar & Spy HERE
Book Site
Lesson Activities

Rebecca Stead is a Newbery winning author. Thinking that writing was "impractical" she became a lawyer. I LOVE her advice on using parentheticals. You can read more about it on her website (HERE).

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2012 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com