Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer


Why do little girls (and some boys) love playing dress-up as pink fairy princess ballerinas? (I honestly don’t know. I seem to have missed this phase.)

In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, Olivia’s going through something of an identity crisis, as she does NOT want to be just like every other girl (and some of the boys) her age. She does NOT want to dress up as a pink-tutu-ed fairy princess. Though, during the course of trying to get Olivia to bed, her mother points out patiently that Olivia did just that not too long ago, Olivia retorts that was when she was young. She’s now far too mature and sophisticated for tutus of any color, preferring a “ladies who lunch” outfit for a party and a particularly effective warthog costume for Halloween. Anyway, why are all the princesses pink? What about the Chinese and Thai and African and Indian princesses? What about growing up to do things like be a ‘reporter and expose corporate malfeasance’?

After finally being settled into bed, Olivia thinks about the problem and decides upon the ideal solution: she wants to be queen.

Hey, it makes sense to me. Why should we settle for being mere princesses after all? (The associated illustration makes it clear that Olivia’s thinking of something along the lines of a queen regnant, such as Queen Elizabeth.)

What to read next? Well, start with all the other “Olivia” books, but that’s self-evident. Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny trio is a possibility, as there he includes the parents’ exasperated reactions to Trixie’s problems. Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” books might be worth a try, though Eloise always struck me as a much more impish little troublemaker, while Olivia just has the normal energy of any preschooler. My thought was Russell Hoban’s “Frances” books; both series involve an anthropomorphic family of “animal” humans—badgers in Hoban’s case and pigs in Falconer’s—though I think Hoban’s books may have more of a plot line than Falconer’s, insomuch as picture books ever do have a plot. Frances envies her friend’s china tea set, tries to avoid going to bed, experiments with foods previously thought yucky, and so on, while both Eloise and Olivia swan through a given day in something closer to a stream-of-consciousness narrative.

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