“Oh, Olive!” is something Olive hears a lot. Born to somber shape-painting artists, Olive stands out due to her colorful creations and exuberant personality. Olive has no qualms about painting on anything—or anyone—and doggedly paints how SHE wants to paint, refusing to create the stolid shapes requested by her parents and teachers. Will the rest of the world ever see the genius she knows she possesses? Perfect for classrooms, art rooms and bedtime, Oh, Olive! (Katherine Tegen, $19.99, 9780063237490) is a charming reminder to paint what is in your heart, because it takes all kinds of artists to make the world a more beautiful place.
Author and illustrator Lian Cho emulates her own protagonist by creating artwork that effortlessly conveys the story on its own. Oh, Olive! begins with an orderly little black-and-white town, rife with bustling details. It is perfectly amiable, perfectly pleasant . . . perfectly dull. Enter Olive and her flamboyant colors. One can sense Cho’s own glee in creating Olive’s work, which cannot be contained to Olive’s canvas. It speckles and spatters and erupts from the monotone backdrop in stunning fashion. Cho’s art throughout is clever and humorous, keeping the reader’s eye bouncing from scene to scene. Cho captures Olive’s resolute personality, from messy toddler finger painting to child artist curating shows for her stuffed animals. Keen-eyed readers will also notice the ever-present triangles, circles and squares reflected in the designs of the town and the characters themselves. The facial expressions of the townsfolk and especially Olive’s parents are hilarious.
Cho wisely keeps the narration straightforward, with a very subtle undercurrent of Olive’s subversion peeking through. There are many things to admire about this creative picture book: What particularly stands out is how Olive never wavers in her determination or enthusiasm. She keeps painting, knowing the world needs artists like her. For children who have ever felt like they don’t quite match up or fit in, Oh, Olive! will encourage them to paint on like Olive, because everyone has something special to give.