Wise Words from Olivia and Her Maker

June 27, 2008

We can't let this month pass without special mention of Olivia, that small pig with the outsize ego who has captured the hearts and minds of so many preschoolers and parents. 

We can think of no other character in children's lit who illustrates our theme so well. Olivia is, undeniably, all about herself -- in the best of ways (no worries about her self-confidence) and the most bemusing (check the expressions on her parents' faces).

You probably already know that the Olivia books are endlessly entertaining to kids and parents alike. But we also think they are way more than that. Throughout these stories, the brilliant Ian Falconer has embedded a lighthearted guide to building a child's confidence and sense of self.

To prove the point, we present to you: Wise Words from Olivia and Her Maker, along with our Savvy Cliffs-Notes to Olivia, Queen of Self-Esteem.

"This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things." -- Olivia

(Olivia's creator builds her up.)

"Luckily I knew how to do everything." -- Olivia Saves the Circus

(She's internalized the message.)

"To Olivia, she sounded just like a real band." -- Olivia Forms a Band

(A one-pig circus, a one-pig band -- is there anything she can't do?)

"'Mommy, can you make me a red soccer shirt...? Please?...'
'But then you'll look different from everyone else on the team,' explained her mother.
'That's the point.'"
-- Olivia... and the Missing Toy

(Taking it to the next level: not only can she do anything, she can be anyone she pleases.)

"Now I have a present for you. It's a self-portrait. Won't it be beautiful over the fireplace?" -- Olivia Helps With Christmas

(Didn't we tell you -- preschooler self-portraits are key! By the last book of the series, Olivia is ready to represent herself.)

"Most of [Olivia] was really about me anyway." -- Ian Falconer in an interview with Publisher's Weekly


From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Oh, and how interesting when things come full circle and I find myself, an Olivia-esque mom, being reminded that it is okay to be different! Thanks for the reminder!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    At tbe end of the original Oliva book her mom tells her that she wears her out but she "loves her anyway". We have used this as an opportunity to talk about how even when their dad and I are upset or don't like something they do we will always love them.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    What we always loved about the soccer shirt comment is that it shows our kids that it's okay to be different. Even in preschool, kids want to fit in. They like the same things (rainbows and unicorns for my daughter and her friends; robots and trains for my son and his friends). They even all tend to have the same favorite color. But seeing that Olivia thinks it's okay to be different gave me an opportunity to talk to my kids about the importance of being who they are, not who their friends are. The next time that everyone wanted to play princess but my daughter felt like being a pirate, she said so!

    over a year ago


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