cover image Olive and the Big Secret

Olive and the Big Secret

Tor Freeman. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6149-6

The instant Molly tells Olive a secret and Olive solemnly swears, “I will never tell,” readers will know it’s really only a matter of time (or pages) before Olive spills. No matter—British author/illustrator Freeman’s brisk storytelling and comically expressive cast of anthropomorphic animals make an all-too-familiar situation feel fresh. Freeman underscores the chain reaction of Molly’s secret being passed from one set of loose lips to another (“This secret was really hard to keep!”) as new locales and players appear with each page turn. The stagelike composition and the characters’ penchant for theatrical gestures (including a spit-take in the swimming pool) keep the mood as light as a French farce while still conveying sympathy for Molly—and empathy for the tough task of being a secret keeper. Even when Molly is allowed her moment of anger, it’s clear that the group’s social fabric is being stretched, not torn asunder. And while Freeman refuses to officially divulge Molly’s secret (“Well, I’d like to tell you, but... IT’S A SECRET!”), hints on the endpapers should satisfy curious readers. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)