Olive the (anthropomorphic) orange cat is back—and she’s still oblivious to the impact of her actions (Olive and the Big Secret, 2012).
The drama starts immediately as Olive trips on an untied shoelace, skids along under the copyright data and lands in an irritated heap on the title page. She then takes out her temper by making rude remarks to everyone she meets. From bunny best friend Molly, who innocently inquires whether Olive would like to play, to Lola the giraffe, who just wants to say hi, Olive belittles, insults and ignores her friends. Not surprisingly, each of them winds up in a bad mood too. Freeman keeps the text simple and conversational though not always convincingly childlike. Her mixed-media illustrations are crisp, and her animal characters, with round bodies, large heads, and comically small arms and legs, caper across white space that is mostly uncluttered by background details. Olive’s pronounced pout expresses her negative feelings, while her friends’ transitions from cheery to cranky are shown in serial portraits that also convey motion and activity. After annoying everyone, Olive soothes herself with sweets, shares them freely—and then sinks back into the doldrums when the candy runs out.
Unfortunately, the realistically petty temper tantrum and unhealthy coping mechanism overshadow the slight humor and seem likely to leave young listeners and their parents even less enchanted with Olive than her friends are. (Picture book. 4-7)