Sometime last year, the boys and I were introduced to Oliver in Oliver and His Alligator. We loved reading about how Oliver uses his vivid imagination to get through the first day of school.
In Oliver and His Egg, Oliver returns to navigate the nerve-wracking waters of friendship. While he is playing on the playground, he finds a rock. Using that same wonderful imagination from his first adventure, he pretends it's an egg. And out of that egg hatches . . . a friend. Oliver and his friend go on all kinds of adventures: a pirate ship, a campout, even a spaceship. Suddenly though, his blissful, happy little bubble is popped when a little girl innocently asks, "Oliver, why are you sitting on that rock?" And Oliver realizes that even though it's fun to go on imaginary adventures with a pretend friend, it's even more fun to invite all the other kids to go on those adventures with him.
Oliver is an unlikely hero: he is shy; he likes to be by himself; he is wary of new situations and new people. In other words, he is not the type of child that most adults (or kids) take any notice of (and he probably prefers it that way). And yet, for all his quiet reserve, I found myself relating to him. I also get nervous in big crowds and unfamiliar situations. Often times, I would like to just be able to quietly observe without feeling threatened by conversation. But then, just like Oliver, once I've been given my time and space, I'm more than happy to brave the unknown, and I find that it's not so scary after all.
And it's not just me. I know a lot of children (including at least one of my own) who would like to hide away from anything new or different. For all of us introverts, it's comforting to see how one little boy manages and conquers those fears.
So that's the adult perspective. But of course my kids don't read this book and think, Oh, Oliver's an introvert. I'm kind of shy like him. Maybe I can pretend away all the scary things around me, too. No, when they read this book, all they hear is a really great story. And that's just as it should be. In fact, one time as Max was looking through this book, he stopped at the last page with all of the kids and said, "Those are all of Oliver's friends from school." And then he asked, "They all got out of the alligator?" (He was referring to the first book where all of Oliver's classmates get gobbled up by his alligator.) I realized in that moment how blurry the line is between fact and fiction for kids. Even though Oliver was just using his imagination to make his classmates and classroom disappear, to Max, it was a great story about an alligator gobbling up a bunch of people.
Speaking of fact or fiction, I love Oliver's "friend" in this story. It kind of looks like a brachiosaurus . . . with large orange polka dots. Once again, that line between fact and fiction is fuzzy. It's Oliver's imagination, and he can make his friend look however he wants. He's not concerned if it's an authentic looking dinosaur. He just wants a fun and kind friend with a broad back for riding on.
If you have not yet met Oliver with his adorable spiky-straight hair and worried eyebrows, you must not wait any longer. With limited text and sweet illustrations, it's a charming book to read to your kids.
Many thanks to Disney-Hyperion for the review copy. All opinions are my own.