Olivia Forms A Band

Oink, oink, hooray! Olivia is back in all her perfectly accessorized, gung-ho glory. This time, her project (she always has one) is starting a band to perform at a fireworks display. Fans can already hear strains of John Philip Sousa and see costumes adorned with spangles and fringe. As her literary friends know, Olivia is nothing if not enthusiastic, which is why the child-pig is inevitably compared to the indomitable Eloise or the tall-tale-telling Pippi Longstocking.

See all the antics for yourself when Olivia Forms A Band (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.95; ages 4 to 9), the fourth book in her series, arrived in stores the first week of June. The piglet heroine raids kitchen cabinets, her brothers' toy collection and even her father's wardrobe - suspenders are handy for attaching all manner of things to a porcine body - to collect necessary materials. Because as her mother says, "... the word 'band' means more than one person, and a band sounds like more than one person."

"But Mommy, this morning you told me I sounded like five people!"

That's one of those universal exchanges that endear Olivia to adults as well as children. Writer and illustrator Ian Falconer's black-and-white drawings, accented judiciously with red in the first book (Olivia), salmon in the second (Olivia Saves the Circus) and green in the third (Olivia and the Missing Toy), focus the reader's eye on the characters' faces, creating a subtext for his wry writing style.

In Band, light blue is the main new color. Still, purists will note that the fireworks are appropriately rainbow-hued. The sunset is orange, and Olivia and her mother daydream about bands in "thought bubbles" featuring four-color photographs. It's a sign of Falconer's artistic precision that these elements deftly blend and preserve the beloved look and feel associated with Olivia.

Those who loved the first two books but thought Olivia came off as slightly bratty in the third book about the missing toy can take heart. This fourth appearance places our gal right back on the top of the list of all-time great characters. Cue the fanfare.

History - All about Olivia

  • Ian Falconer, an opera and ballet set designer and illustrator with more than a dozen New Yorker covers in his portfolio, created the precocious girl in a pig's body and introduced her to the public in 2000 (Olivia). She charmed readers with her stylish wardrobe, enviable sand-castle building skills, devotion to bedtime books and an attempt to decorate her room with a messy but recognizable Jackson Pollock-inspired painting. Olivia stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for 107 weeks.
  • In 2001, she told her "pretty all true" account of a summer vacation when she juggled, rode a unicycle and donned a clown suit allowing the show to go on, though all the performers were out sick with ear infections (Olivia Saves the Circus).
  • In Olivia and the Missing Toy (2003) her favorite stuffed toy disappears and Olivia interrogates her brothers and looks everywhere. During a dark and stormy night, she discovers her beloved toy chewed to bits. The culprit causes her to boycott any books about dogs during her regular bedtime reading.
  • The first printing of 400,000 copies of Oliva Forms a Band will be released Tuesday. Using kitchen utensils and her brothers' toys Olivia stages a one-pig performance and sees fireworks.

Read All About It is a column about children's books. You can reach Brandy Hilboldt Allport at (904) 359-4378 or a brandy.allport@jacksonville.com.

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