The New Yorker artist Ian Falconer's endearing charcoal portraits of his porcine heroine are spotted with fire-engine red gouache in all the right places--perhaps a tribute to Hilary Knight's red, pink, white, and black celebrations of Olivia's human counterpart? When she dresses up, the bow on her ears, her red lipstick, and her high-heeled shoes are all red. (The only time her shades-of-gray body is pink is when she is sunburned and the area where her bathing suit was is white!) Falconer does a fine job of letting the spare text set up the jokes for the visual punch lines--a dryly humorous interplay that adults will appreciate as much as children.
Preschoolers (and their parents) will see themselves in Olivia--a typical high-energy, over-the-top kid who likes the beach and Degas paintings, but hates naps. On the other hand, she combs her ears and is unusually gifted at sandcastle building. While we are certainly reminded of Eloise, Falconer's portrait is simpler in scope, less demented, and, as a result, less adult. Bottom line: precocious is fun, and we're tickled pink to have Olivia join the parade of, let's just say, individualistic youngsters. (Ages 4 to 8) --Karin Snelson