Hi there... This is the first page of the Letter "O" in an alphabetical list of children's books reviewed on ReadThatAgain.com... All these books are also listed by Author in another section of the site.

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Kids Books -- "O" By Title
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"Oh No, Gotta Go!"
Written by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2003)

A really cute bilingual (Spanish-English) book about learning to go potty in the outside world. A family is out for a Sunday drive when their little girl announces, with great urgency, that she needs to pee -- NOW. DE PRISA. The rhyming text is effective and amusing, the pictures are a hoot (some of the finest work Karas has done to date...) and the integration of the Spanish vocabulary is skillfully handled, as is the issue of potty training and needing to go when you need to go. One of Elya's finest books -- definitely worth checking out! (A)

"Oh, Say Can You Say?"
Written by Dr. Seuss
Illustrated by Dr. Seuss
(Beginner's Books, 1979)

A killer-diller tongue-twister book, similar to Seuss's Fox In Socks, but without as much fuddle-duddling and violence. As with other Seuss forays, literalism and meaning aren't as important as the fluid, funny artwork and the joyous, playful use of language. The book sort of peters out at the end, when it mysteriously starts to focus on fathers and what kind of presents to get them (?), but several of the earlier poems are a lot of fun to read, particularly "Fresh, Fresher, Freshest," "Quack, Quack," "The Grox Box" and "How To Tell A Klotz From A Glotz." It's a lot of fun to zip through these pages and see if you get tripped up or not: when I make a goof, my kid likes to tease me and makes blibblubblibblubblibblub noises to let me know she's totally busted me. Another winner from the Doctor... Recommended! (A-)

"Old Black Witch"
Written by Wende Devlin
Illustrated by Harry Devlin
(Parents' Magazine Press, 1963)

A kooky old book about a family that moves into an old house haunted by a cantankerous witch... Even though she tries to convince them that she is wicked and unfriendly, she eventually warms up to them and even helps them start a breakfast-oriented tea room that becomes a big success with the locals. There's a mildly violent turn towards the end of the book when the witch zaps a pair of would-be robbers and changes them into toads, who she afterwards keeps as pets. The story is a little bit twisted, but not too much, and the artwork is pretty fab. Probably best for slightly older kids (say, six years old or over?) A nice one for the broomstick and wiccan sets! (B-)

"Old Blue Buggy"
Written by Fran Swift
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
(Penguin/Dutton, 2003)

A sweet story about a free-spirit mom and her little boy, Henry, who find an old-fashioned blue pram at a yard sale, and how they use it as their stroller for several years, until it's time to give it up. A nice portrait of how strollers become both surrogate homes and shopping carts, and how seemingly junky items can be recycled and put to good use. The ending, in which both mother and son realize they have outgrown their old friend, is handled beautifully -- it's sentimental bit not maudlin, and is one of the finer portrayals of this kind of passing-of-time themes I've seen. A great tool for bringing up and easing into similar transitions for post-toddler children. Carol Thompson's warm, expressive artwork is a perfect compliment to the text. (A)

"Oliver Finds His Way"
Written by Phyllis Root
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
(Candlewick, 2002)

A scary subject, dealt with in a reassuring way. Oliver is a little bear cub who strays away from his house, while his Mama hangs out the wash and Dad is raking up leaves. After he dashes past all his familiar landmarks, Oliver realizes he is lost in the woods... and nobody knows where he is! At first he tries crying, but after nothing happens, he lets out a little roar, at first softly and then a bit louder. Finally he roars loud enough that his parents hear and they call for him, allowing Oliver to follow their voices back home, where snuggly hugs await. Oliver's adventure has the elements of fear and loss of control, but the story isn't written in a way that overemphasizes his being frightened. What we see is a small child who realizes he's in danger, but deals with the problem sensibly and calmly... Parents can take the opportunity to lecture ("He shouldn't have run away from his parents, huh?") but the book doesn't do it for you. This is nice, since it gives parents a chance to decide how much of the issue to talk about, and how intensely to deliver the message. Beautiful artwork, too -- gorgeous, large charcoal-and-watercolor paintings that fill each page with soft, autumnal color. Very nice book. (A)

"Oliver's Fruit Salad"
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Allison Bartlett
(Orchard Books, 1998)

A celebration of fresh fruit, wherein young Oliver (hero of Oliver's Vegetables, reviewed below) returns. The story opens with Oliver sniffily telling his mom how much better the fruit that grows on his grandparent's farm is from what they have at home. Mom listens patiently, then takes Oliver to the store and picks out all the best fruit she can find, and when they get it home, the grandparents show up and suggest they make fruit salad, which again to his own surprise the boy discovers he likes. The pro-new stuff, pro-produce message is certainly welcome, but Oliver sure is a snotty kid... I found I had to read around the dialogue, so that Oliver's petulance didn't overwhelm the entire story and become the focus of the book. This whole series really bugs me... (B-)

"Oliver's Milk Shake"
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Allison Bartlett
(Orchard Books, 1996)

Wow... I really, really hated this book. I mean, I realize that the goal of the "Oliver" books is to help encourage "picky eaters" to try to eat new, healthier foods, but the tone of this series, and the premise that kids need to be cajoled and tricked into eating healthily is just kind of icky, somehow. That isn't exactly what's happening in this book, but that's what it feels like, and that makes it an unpleasant read. This volume in particular hit me the wrong way, since on every, single page there's some reference to the milkshake that has to be made for Oliver in order for him to drink yucky old milk. At least with the other books in this series, you could kind of read around the weird parts -- in this one, though, it's all weird. I wound up just going, "Oh, look, there's a cow and there are some sheep. The end!" I dunno, I just don't enjoy reading these books that cater to (and model) bad behavior in small children. Plus, Oliver is such a whiny brat... He isn't really a character I really want to spend much time with...! (D)

"Oliver's Vegetables"
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Allison Bartlett
(Orchard Books, 1995)

A nutritionally-challenged city kid goes for a weeklong visit to his grandparents' farm in the country, where they teach him to explore more veggies than just his daily dose of french fries. Spinach, carrots, rutabaga, beets, peas and cabbage are introduced to his diet, all of which he loves, much to his own surprise. That's all very well and fine, although there are some problematic aspects to the book, both in structure and tone. To start with, Oliver is kind of bratty -- he's a stand-in for all the petulant veggie-haters of the world, which is okay if you do have a kid you want to coax into a healthier diet, but if you're just looking for a book that will reinforce good eating habits, you may have to modify the text so that the anti-produce ideology doesn't seep into your household. Overall, Oliver isn't as irritating in this first book as in its sequel, Oliver's Fruit Salad, (reviewed below) -- so that his behavior doesn't overshadow the pro-veggie message , which comes through loud and clear, albeit it comes with some baggage. The other odd aspect of this book is the choppy writing, particularly the abrupt beginning, where the first sentence is Mom rushing Oliver to catch the bus to Grandpa's house, with no preface or explanation. Feels like an editor told French "soemthings got to go," and when they shortened the text, they just lopped off a few pages, without really rewriting the text. (Also, why is it "Grandpa's house," when Gram is also standing there the whole time? Hmmmm.) Anyway, if you're on the prowl for pro-produce propaganda, this book's a fine choice. It has some shortcomings, but they are mild in comparison to more positive aspects. (B-)

Written by Ian Falconer
Illustrated by Ian Falconer
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2000)

One of the most successful series in what can be called the "hipster" era of picturebooks, the "Olivia" books are written and designed by New Yorker artist Ian Falconer... They are anarchic and ironic, featuring the misadventures of a headstrong, wily, self-centered (piglet) girl named Olivia. She has a rich interior life (her positive side) and insists on having her way, even to the point of utter obnoxiousness (the negative)... I think Olivia's spoiledness is an accurate reflection of a wide swath of overpriveleged American children (particularly among upper-crusty Manhattanites...) and that explains a lot of her popularity with both kids and parents of this generation. I found plenty to appreciate in these books: the winking asides and multi-level humor will resonate with grown-ups the same way Looney Tunes cartoons and Peanuts strips did for parents in the past, and the mix'n-match, multimedia elements (with photographs and reproductions of other artwork included in various books) help elevate these books to a moderate meta-level status. I'm sure kids get the jokes, too... Still, there's a certain amount of discomfort that I can't quite shake... Discomfort with how bossy and thoughtless Olivia can be -- for instance, when she forces her mother to make her a new soccer uniform (in Olivia And The Missing Toy) and barely notices when the acquiescent parent produces the fancy new togs. This selfishness is, of course, a big part of the humor, but I still feel like I'm spending more time with a bratty kid than I would like to when I'm reading these books. Kids go ga-ga over these books, though, so I suppose they are a hit... Still, you might want to vet them first, and see what you think. (B+)

"Olivia Saves The Circus"
Written by Ian Falconer
Illustrated by Ian Falconer
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2001)

The second Olivia book finds our porcine heroine dreaming of a career in the circus. More mischievous behavior and clever mixed-media collage work. If you were onboard with the first book, you'll be there with this one, too. (B+)

"Olivia And The Missing Toy"
Written by Ian Falconer
Illustrated by Ian Falconer
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2003)

If you don't want to introduce books that encourage bratty behavior, you might want to skip this one, although if you don't mind books that reflect the impish, petulant, manipulative side of little kids, this one is slyly funny and quite true to life. It's time for Olivia's soccer practice, and she announces to her mom that she wants a red jersey, not a green one like all the other team uniforms. Mom obligingly sits down and spends all day making Olivia a new outfit, but when she brings it in for Olivia's approval, Olivia gets distracted when she realizes that her favorite doll has disappeared, and she pitches a day-long fit, yelling at each of her little brothers: "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY TOY??" (Baby William's nonchalant reply, "whooshee gaga," is a classic catchphrase from the Olivia series...) As with many of the Olivia books, a lot of the humor is pitched at parents -- Olivia practicing piano in a darkened room that looks like the set of an old Vincent Price movie, the slow-burn reaction from Mom when Daddy promises to buy Olivia "the very best toy in the whole world as a way to get her to stop crying, etc. -- but kids like it, too, so go figure. I think there is something to be said for the criticism that these books are almost a blueprint for how to raise a spoiled brat, but kids -- little girls in particular -- dig 'em, so it's a tradeoff, interest in reading vs. learning to whine and pout. Six of one, half-dozen of the other. (B+)

"Olivia Forms A Band"
Written by Ian Falconer
Illustrated by Ian Falconer
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2006)

BASHboomBANGtingalingaCRASH..!!!!! Olivia dresses up to become a one-person band, but abandons her kit when it's time to go out and see some fireworks. More of Olivia's half-bratty/half-adorable headstrong chutzpah, and increasingly creative artistic layout from Falconer, with bolder collage and photo-based splash pages. If you like the series, this one holds up. (B+)

Written by Olivier Dunrea
Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
(Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

This follows on the heels of Olivier Dunrea's super-cute Gossie & Gertie books. Here, a third gosling, Ollie, hasn't been born yet. He spends most of this book inside an egg, refusing to come out. You can tell Ollie is going to be a handful -- he says over and over "I won't come out!", even though both Gossie and Gertie are impatient to see him hatch. He manages to have adventures nonetheless, rolling his egg all around the barnyard, getting into the sheep pens, etc. Gossie and Gertie finally decide to use a little reverse psychology, saying, "Fine! Don't come out!" Naturally, on the book's last page, there's Ollie, fresh hatched from his well-travelled egg. Like Dunrea's other gosling books, this thin volume seems like something of a nonevent, but it has an oddball charm, both visual and thematic, and it'll strike just the right note for just the right sort of toddler-age kids. Although I find it a little boring, there are frequent requests for it at storytime. (B+)

"Ollie The Stomper"
Written by Olivier Dunrea
Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
(Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Ollie, fresh out of the egg, starts following Gossie and Gertie around, and notices that they both have boots, but he does not. Increasingly petulant, Ollie finally bursts out and yells, "I Want Boots!" The girls think it over, and each one gives him one of her own boots, so that he has his own pair. They stomp around a little bit, then Ollie decides he doesn't really like boots all that much, and kicks them off so he can go swimming. Gossie and Gertie follow, and that's the whole story. This book is typically well-rendered, offbeat in its humor, and short. It doesn't have the same magic as the first books, but the geese are cute, and your kid'll like it. In some ways it's kind of nice to see such a grumpy animal in the barnyard: maybe more character development for Ollie will give this series longer legs. (B)

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