Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Characters We Love: Olivia

Each night, in the mad rush to lay my kids to bed there is one ritual that we hold pretty sacred, and that is story time. Hopefully we’ve managed to get enough books at the library to allow us to read two or three new stories before bed. We go through phases like everyone else, but my two year old daughter has been stuck in the same phase for months.

“What do you want to read?” I ask.

“Olivia, Olivia, Olivia!” She chants, sounding like she has a mouth full of marbles, (its much cuter than I’m making it sound.)

I don’t mind reading  Olivia books.

Olivia is a lovable pig, the brain child of author and illustrator Ian Falconer. Olivia has a penchant for the color red, a willful personality, and an ambitious spirit. Olivia is anything but passive. 

I sort of stumbled upon the Olivia books based on the artwork and several suggestions from Goodreads lists, but when I opened the book to find this strong, confidant pig that has this incredible zeal for life along with the attitude that anything is possible, I had to get my hands on every Olivia book I could find.

Olivia, according to Wikipedia, is six years old. She is a daughter, a big sister, a student, like any other six year old…but in her imagination, she becomes so much more. A lion tamer, an acrobat, a famous dancer, a supreme court justice... 

Olivia is very fashion conscious. When she laments wearing her school uniform, she proclaims that she must accessorize, and accessorize she does. Red is her color of choice, and to my knowledge, she is never seen out of it. She loves wearing her mother’s lipstick. At one point, you see her sitting at the mirror after just applying lipstick. In her mind, she looks radiant, while in reality it is apparent that her imagination may have run away with itself again as her lipstick is smeared all over her face. 

Praise for Olivia is not limited to my two year old. She has many admirers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov (the ballet dancer), David Hockney (the artist), Gloria Steinem (the feminist/activist), and Dame Joan Sutherland (the opera singer). 

I think what I love most about Olivia, is how she really embodies childhood in the best ways. Sure, she's dramatic and often oblivious and insensitive, but she isn't mean spirited. I see so much of my own daughters in Olivia. 

Another thing I love about Olivia, is she challenges traditional gender roles. She loves to play dress up, but she also loves to  plays sports. To her, being unique and doing what she wants to do, not what is expected for typical six year old girls to do, is very important. 

My favorite line in the book Olivia, is when her mother tells her "You know Olivia, you really wear me out, but I love you anyway." Olivia replies, "I love you anyway too." 

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