Writing and illustrating a children's book looks deceptively simple. It's not, of course, and the best of the best is a charmed lot indeed.
Tonight, after my twin first-grade girls were snoozing, I pulled out my advance copy of Olivia Forms a Band. The first page alone made me fall in love and laugh. As the mother of a girl who often has sock issues exactly when it's time to go to school, I could identify with the dilemma posed by the line Olivia couldn't find her other red sock. When her mother inquires about the 12 other red socks lying on the floor, Olivia calmly states, They don't go with this one. In case you haven't met Olivia, she is a young pig who has a shall we say bold sense of spirit and will. She has starred in several other books, including Olivia and Olivia Saves the Circus. Olivia is simply drawn, yet full of expression like the very best characters of children's literature (think Madeline and Curious George). In this episode of Olivia's life, her family is set for a night of fireworks. When her mother informs her that there will be no band, Olivia is horrified and decides that she will be the band. After her mom explains that a band technically needs more than one member, Olivia earnestly responds, But, Mommy, this morning you told me I sounded like five people. Little Olivia is certainly a character, one who grows bolder (and funnier) with each book. She originated as a Christmas gift for Ian Falconer's niece, Olivia, who shares some character traits with our heroine. Note how wonderful Falconer's drawings and character's expressions are, and that his signature touch is using only black, white and red to help focus attention on facial expressions and graphic situations the basic emotional architecture of the story. There's so much more I could say, but it's probably best if I simply recommend that you get this book right away. Trust me there is plenty here to genuinely delight adults and children alike. Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.