In this children’s book, Olivia breaks a window, gains a new friend and learns life lessons by taking on a series of dares.
Author/illustrator Thomas (The Most Special Place on Earth, 2011, etc.) tells a moral tale about an adventurous girl. Olivia loves to play in the park with her friends, and one day, while skipping stones in her Halloween witch costume, Olivia accepts a dare from her friend to throw a rock at a nearby house. When she accidently breaks the window, her friend runs off, leaving the green-faced Olivia to face the disgruntled homeowner. The old woman takes pity on the tearful girl and urges Olivia to learn from her mistakes. She challenges Olivia by daring her to “make something beautiful.” When Olivia returns with a model of a large, colorful castle, the old woman next gives her a series of challenges for self-improvement. She dares Olivia to listen to herself, to learn new things and become a better person. Classic children’s authors have flipped the didactic fable upside down with imaginative stories in which children take on challenges, leave their ordinary world and travel to the chaotic unknown, as in Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat (1957). This book’s didactic narrative tells readers that “Olivia had trusted her feelings and it felt good”; however, readers never experience the little girl’s struggles or failures, which keeps them at a distance. That said, Thomas writes smoothly and with experience, despite overusing the word “special.” The illustrations use black outlines and vivid colored pencils, with figures shown in a sort of hieroglyphic pose, arms outstretched, facing forward, feet to the side, although, once, Olivia is shown in a more natural position, sitting cross-legged with her art supplies. Throughout, Thomas ably combines the lengthy text with full-scene drawings through the use of lively colors.
A children’s story that engagingly explores how children can handle dares creatively and successfully.