March 26, 2012

Olivia Counts

Olivia Counts
By Ian Falconer; illus. by author
1-4 Preschool Atheneum 12 pp.
978-0689850875 Board Book $6.99

Olivia, Ian Falconer's precocious, porcine heroine, returns, this time in Olivia Counts, an appropriately charming foray into the world of 1-10. Unfortunately, Falconer's trademark Olivia palette, with its blacks, whites and grays punctuated by tomatoey red, makes the counted items difficult to individuate, and therefore hard to count.

The book starts off well, with 1 beach ball dominating the page and a nearly overwhelmed Olivia peeking out from behind it. 2 big red bows at the tips Olivia's ears are similarly easy to see and account for. But the 3 pots of paint (one red, one black and one gray) are small and almost incidental with Olivia and her brush occupying the majority of the white background. Similarly, Olivia's 4 aunts, rendered in smudgy gray and white are oddly hard to differentiate and therefore hard to count. The rest of the items pass in a similar style, with 5 books stacked narrowly atop each other, 7 accessories scattered haphazardly across the page and 10 highly active Olivia's detracting from each other with their kinetic exuberance.

Fans of Olivia already familiar with Falconer's style will love Olivia Counts. While the slight muddiness of the visuals would not necessarily be a problem for a preschooler who already knows her numbers, it could prove distracting or even discouraging for a toddler just learning to count. For this reason, I would say that Olivia Counts is a solid choice for existing fans, but for those who have yet to meet Olivia or develop some familiarity with numbers, there are stronger introductions to counting and other Olivia adventures to explore first.

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