Olivia's Story

An entertaining mashup of history and fantasy, with a likably audacious heroine plotting against the Nazis.

During World War II, the future of two worlds—human and fairy—depends on a young American woman in this middle-grade novel.

In 1942, Olivia, under 30, is excited about leaving her Wyoming home for New York City. Soon, she gets a job translating German documents and preparing reports for a handsome, late-30s man called only “the major,” although he becomes Mike Layton after further acquaintance. Also working for Mike is Vivian, who’s Olivia’s age; the two become good friends and roommates. In 1944, Olivia and Vivian are taking a walk when a car mows into them, killing Vivian. It’s no accident; Olivia recognizes the driver, a co-worker, who must be a German spy. A month later, Mike departs for London, leaving Olivia in charge. Then one night, a delicate, winged blue woman brings Olivia life-changing news: “We need your help. Soon the future of the world is to be placed in your hands.” In the fairy realm, called Fridsamt, Olivia is asked to join the Fairy Alliance, become protector of the realm, rescue Mike from his German captors, and defeat the evil Gray Jinn who’s aiding the Nazis—perhaps to develop an atomic weapon. With the help of some fairy inventions, Olivia becomes governess at a German colonel’s home and carries out her bold and risky plans. Dahl (Bugga’s Tales, 2015, etc.) packs a lot of action into this fast-moving story. Olivia is clever, patient, and brave, with a certain spunky American flair: having outfoxed a sneering German general, she ruffles his hair and runs whistling up the stairs. She seems much younger than nearly 30, but that’s a quibble. The uncredited illustrations add a nice touch with their vintage-comics style. As with the Indiana Jones film series, the paranormal plays well with Nazis and their often-cartoonish evil. But given the very real evil of Nazi death camps, readers may wonder why Olivia and the fairies aren’t more concerned about stopping that horror rather than focusing on Britain’s vulnerability to bombs.

An entertaining mashup of history and fantasy, with a likably audacious heroine plotting against the Nazis. 

Pub Date: June 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5172-5

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

The Buehners retell the old familiar tale with a jump-roping, rhyme-spouting Goldilocks. When their porridge proves to be too hot to eat, the bear family goes for a stroll. Meanwhile, Goldilocks comes knocking to find a jump-roping friend. This Goldilocks does not simply test out the chairs: “Big chair, middle chair, little chair, too, / Somebody’s here to bounce on you!” And so continues the old favorite, interspersed with Goldilocks’s jump-rope verse. When she escapes through the bedroom window, none of the characters are sure what sort of creature they have just encountered. The Buehner’s homey illustrations perfectly capture the facial expressions of the characters, and lend a particular kind of mischief to Goldilocks. Readers may miss the message on the copyright page, but hidden within each picture are three creatures, instantly adding challenge and appeal. Cute, but there’s not quite enough new here to make it a must. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8037-2939-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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