Olivia the Spy

Oh, Olivia, you maddening, marvelous piglet, how we love you.

This time around, Olivia, the everytoddler from Ian Falconer's Olivia series (Olivia and the Fairy Princess, etc.) develops a fascination with eavesdropping. After overhearing her mother talking about her latest mischief, Olivia thinks, "What ELSE is she saying about me? Maybe I should investigate." Of course she should. And when investigating, it's best to be sneaky, to "blend in," even if she's "always stood out." Disguising herself as a lamp, a piece of artwork, a zebra-print rug,     the porcine spy listens in on conversations whenever and wherever she can. But the problem with eavesdropping is that one picks up "[p]artial truths and misinformation," which can make a person feel "[i]nsecure and suspicious," as Olivia learns--the hard way--when she catches her parents discussing an "institution" they'd like her to go to. Her helpful teacher gives her several definitions of this scary-sounding word, including "prison." Readers' hearts will go out to the contrite pig as she prepares for the "SPECIAL" place her mother says she's taking her, unaware that they're actually going to the Lincoln Center--a true New York City "institution"--to see a ballet!

Falconer's incorrigible and independent Olivia, portrayed in his trademark charcoal and gouache artwork, is beloved among a generation whose parents and grandparents were raised on the exploits of another New York scamp, Eloise. Olivia the Spy features the pig, with her propensity for costume changes, at her finest: confidently viewing the world through her own unique eyes. Eavesdropping? "Mommy, I would NEVER do that! I was SPYING!" --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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