cover image Olivia the Spy

Olivia the Spy

Ian Falconer. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5795-8

Olivia is back after a five-year absence, and at first glance she seems as fierce as ever (“Mommy, I know how to use the blender,” she says, before wreaking blueberry smoothie havoc on the kitchen). But Olivia soon senses that in her mother’s eyes, a kind of behavioral Rubicon has been crossed; desperate to learn more about her fate, she resorts to domestic espionage. Falconer’s elegant charcoal and gouache drawings are a sight for sore eyes, and he comes up with wonderful camouflages for his heroine, including one involving a Rothko-like painting. Olivia overhears the word “institution,” deduces that it refers to prison, and—for a few important pages— thinks that she has been beat. Seeing Olivia cowed, submissive, and sadly packing her suitcase for what she believes is a trip to the Big House may surprise her diehard fans, but it’s soon revealed that the institution in question is the ballet, where she, of course, steals the show. Falconer leaves no doubt that Olivia emerges from her dark moment of the soul ready to tackle whatever seizes her attention next. Ages 4–8. Agent: Conrad Rippy, Levine Plotkin & Menin. (Apr.)