Oliver

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Oliver Book Poster Image
Imaginative boy goes down the drain on fantastic adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Oliver shows how to carry an idea through: He starts with a question, learns all he can, and then goes further by making his own wings, taking things apart, and digging into the dirt. He's the kind of kid who goes through a lot of paper and tape.

Positive Messages

Oliver's curiosity greatly enriches his playtime. He wants to explore everything by learning all he can and then letting his imagination take over. His mother is preoccupied but clearly loving. She doesn't always have time to indulge her son, but Oliver is still comfortable bringing all his questions and ideas to her. When he's off on his adventure, he knows he should get back -- his mother would miss him.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Independent Oliver is happily absorbed in his imaginative world while his mother goes about doing her grown-up stuff. Their relationship is realistic: Mom seems a bit worn down by her inquisitive boy, and Oliver chafes at the limits on his freedom. But their moments of connection are genuine and warm.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Oliver will charm all ages with its delightful story and cheerful, multimedia artwork. Oliver's endless curiosity leads him to an incredible adventure down the bathtub drain -- but, as in all great adventures, he makes it home in time for dinner. (Worth noting: Parents might want to point out that jumping from heights in hopes of flying can lead to trouble!)

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What's the story?

Oliver is full of questions. How do planes stay in the sky? Could a penguin live in the refrigerator? When he hears a gurgling tub drain, he wonders if there's a hungry monster in the pipes. Mom won't let him try feeding it a banana, so he makes a cardboard submarine and dives down the drain … and discovers a lively group of vacationing penguins. It's been a fun trip, but Oliver knows his mom will miss him. Could the penguins help him find his way home?

Is it any good?

OLIVER is a delightful book to read together: Kids and parents will see a bit of themselves in both Oliver and his mom. He's a whirlwind of happy energy, drawing up plans and taping things together and jumping off walls. His loving mom is busy, too, hanging the laundry, cleaning up from lunch, and hoping to get in a nap.

Judith Rossell's whimsical artwork -- a blend of watercolor, pencil, and collage -- brings the story to life. Preschoolers will enjoy pointing out recurring elements: Broccoli for lunch reappears as trees, the challenge to get airborne leads to a spread involving jet packs, and Oliver's cardboard submarine has an early cameo as refrigerator art.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about finding the answers to questions. If you're curious about something, how can you learn more?

  • Oliver found out "everything he could" about wings before trying to build his own pair. Why can't Oliver -- or penguins -- fly?

  • Preschoolers might want to go on their own adventure, like Oliver. Parents can supply a large box, scissors, tape, and markers, and then step back and let their child's imagination take over. Another good project: Grab pen and paper, and make up a down-the-drain adventure together. 

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