or, Why I Shouldn’t Ask for Books Before I Read Them. Drake’s third birthday was last weekend. I told his grandparents that he would enjoy the new Olivia book by Ian Falconer and the new Lilly book by Kevin Henkes. I thought these were sure things. In one way, they were. Drake loves them both. I, however, only love Lilly’s Big Day.
Don’t get me wrong. Olivia Forms a Band has many of the elements that make our previous favorites, Olivia and Olivia Saves the Circus, so wonderful: the pencil drawings, the imaginative inclusion of real images, the humor, the spare use of color. But this time I found some of the photorealism a little creepy when Olivia puts on lipstick and sports a coquettish smile full of teeth. Of course, Drake loves these pages and wants to linger over them. Also, I didn’t enjoy the pages that didn’t move the story forward (the first two about red socks and the lipstick pages) and I found the ending predictable. This is a book I’m happy to own, but I would be just as happy to return it to the library, as we did with Olivia’s third adventure, Olivia and the Missing Toy.
Lilly’s Big Day, though, made me laugh. I don’t enjoy all of the Henkes mouse books. I think Lilly is too mean in Julius, Baby of the World, and I was appalled by Wendell’s behavior in A Weekend with Wendell. Lilly’s Big Day, though, reminded me pleasantly of my favorite, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. It has a finely balanced story, with some nice in-jokes for the adult reader. Lilly’s teacher Mr. Slinger is getting married. She wants to be a flower girl, but he’s already asked his niece. Lilly is spirited and charming, and the ending was not predictable. While the book isn’t preachy, Lilly, unlike Olivia, learns something about herself by the end.
I am reminded yet again that the library, not the bookstore, is where I should browse for books.