Olivia, the complex young pig we’ve loved since her debut in 2000, is out with her seventh full-fledged book, Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, by Ian Falconer. Princesses might sound like a girly theme, but not in the hands of her creator, Ian Falconer. In fact, my almost-seven-year-old boy loves this one
Flat on her back on the first page, Olivia is depressed. Even her dog and cat look concerned. She’s thinking long and hard about fairy princesses. Later her mother lathers her hair as she takes a bath and Olivia pronounces, “If everyone’s a princess, then princesses aren’t special anymore!” She also notices they tend to be generic Disney princesses. “Why is it always a pink princess? Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China. There are alternatives.” (And we see Olivia dressed up as each kind of princess.)
She toys with what she can be when she grows up, considering nursing the sick and elderly or being a reporter and exposing corporate malfeasance. Finally she decides just the thing for her on the very last page. (Can’t tell!)
Olivia books hold up well to many readings. The humor has a dry side for adults and a wacky side for kids. Falconer usually has fun super-imposing the characters on a black and white photo or two. His style is familiar as well from his New Yorker covers.