Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oliver by Birgitta Sif

Oliver by Birgitta Sif

Rating: 4 stars

Oliver is a funny little boy.  And by funny, I don't mean funny ha-ha; I mean funny strange.  Just a little, and strange in that way that if you're a grown-up you appreciate how he's cool and different, but when you realize he's a kid you take a quick breath in and hope that his classmates surround him with kindness, not the usual kid cruelness towards anyone and anything a little different.

But, in this book, fears aside, Oliver is different.  And content with that.  "He lived in his own world, happily, with his friends."  Those friends are puppets and stuffed animals that do everything together--go to the library, climb all over the house, attend family parties.  Usually, those animals satisfy him.  But sometimes...they just don't.

And this bums him out (my words, not the author's--hers are more eloquent).
And sometimes, wherever he was, he wanted to fly away.

Rather than mope, he goes outside the next day and plays tennis on his own.  His ball bounces off his funny-strange-looking house and rolled...and bounced...and rolled..and bounced...and rolled away.

He finds it at the feet of a clearly funny (in a good-strange sort of way) girl.

As I look at each other on the two-page spread, I can feel some relief in them both.  Some joy.  Something passes between these two kids' eyes that make you, the reader, realize that the uncomfortableness you've felt the first 10-odd pages of watching Oliver trip awkwardly through childhood alone are wonderfully over.  Now he has a partner.  Who is equally different.  Who gets him and his puppets, whose imagination is also amazing, who goes on all his adventures beside him.

Sif wise writes at the end:

The End
The Beginning

The next day, as he was playing tennis on his own...
Birgitta has not written a best seller here.  This is not going to win a "most popular" award.  But she has written a wholesome gift-of-a-book honoring the quirky child who has difficulty fitting in to the usual "child" mold.  And because of that, I think there will be a lot of kids who find solace in her words, joy in her warm, sweet illustrations, and hope in her story of finding someone who gets them.

And, of course, this book is one that lots of grown-ups would like and appreciate, too. Because we know even more than Oliver and his new funny-strange friend Olivia that finding someone who gets us is the biggest hope inside us all.

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