Why 'Olivia' Is the Perfect Book for a High-Energy Child

Is your child full of boundless energy, excitement, and creativity? They'll see themselves in this classic tale!

By Ashley Austrew
Feb 07, 2019



Why 'Olivia' Is the Perfect Book for a High-Energy Child

Feb 07, 2019

My 4-year-old son is constantly on the move. If he isn’t building Lego masterpieces, he’s designing superhero accessories out of Play-doh or practicing karate kicks in his bedroom. He has more energy and more imagination than I know what to do with sometimes, and that’s why we both get such a kick out of reading Ian Falconer’s book, Olivia.

Olivia is about a bold, imaginative, and endlessly curious little pig who can turn almost any situation into a grand adventure. Nearly two decades after its original release, the book and character continue to be a favorite among an entirely new generation of parents and kids, particularly those who — like my son and me — read the book and can’t help but giggle at how closely it resembles our lives.

What the Book Gets Right

Olivia is a deeply relatable character for my son. By only the second page, the book shows Olivia’s boundless energy as she jumps, twirls, plays ball, yo-yos, and jumps rope. “She is very good at wearing people out,” it says. “She even wears herself out."

Olivia is busy like my son. She takes everything to the extreme. She changes her outfit 50 times before she gets dressed. She hates naps and frolics in her bedroom when she should be sleeping. She’s excited by nearly everything, and her imagination is so big that she just can’t help but want to explore. In the book, her mom teaches her to build sand castles and she imagines she’s building the Empire State Building. Her family goes to the art museum, where she spots a Jackson Pollock and says she could paint something just like it in five minutes. Then, she goes home and paints all over her bedroom wall.

Olivia’s penchant for pushing boundaries delights my son because he shares it, and her complete confidence in being the way she is allows him to delight in the mischievous quirks that make him, him.

I Love Seeing My Son See Himself

As a mom, there are so many reasons why I think Olivia is awesome. I love that my son is connecting with a high-energy female character, because that’s a trait so often left out of books about little girls, and I want him to value and connect with stories about girls just as much as he does with stories about boys. I also love that the book rarely strays from Olivia’s point of view, so it feels to my son like it’s giving kids like him a voice.

But what I love most about reading Olivia is that her energy, imagination, and creativity are always celebrated. There is no doubt that Olivia is the star of her own show, and there is a never a point in the book where her energy is stifled or she is told to be less of herself. And that’s a rarity for high-energy children.

“Out of Control” or Unbounded Joy?

Kids like my son can be a handful. I know there are people in the world who probably look at my son dancing in the Target aisles and practically trying to climb the walls in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office and think he’s misbehaving, a handful, or “out of control.” But in the book, Olivia's energy is what makes her great. It’s what fuels her imagination and helps her see the world like no one else does. The people around her see that and appreciate it, just like I try to do with my son.

At the end of the book, Olivia's mom reads her bedtime stories, kisses her goodnight, and says, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.”

Olivia says, “I love you anyway too,” letting the reader know that her mom’s inability to keep up is equally as tiresome.

Olivia is not about apologizing for high-energy children or making them apologize for themselves. Instead, it’s about the gift of loving little people who have an unmatched zest for life and can’t wait to dive right in. And for kids like my son, it’s about the sheer joy they should feel in being those little people.

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