Review Blog

May 11 2017

Olivia the spy by Ian Falconer

cover image

Olivia series. Simon and Schuster, 2017. ISBN 9781471164224
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Spying. With seven books about Olivia published, children will be thrilled to see another outing for this wonderful character.
Olivia is in her mother's bad books, again. She has used the blender to make a blueberry smoothie, but in spite of being told to be careful and not overfill the appliance, she does, and it splashes all over the kitchen leaving a ghostly outline of Olivia on the wall. She puts dad's white shirts in the washing machine with her red socks! The reader knows she is in trouble, and will snigger happily anticipating where the story may take them. She overhears her mother on the phone, complaining of Olivia's lack of foresight, asking whether she will ever grow up, and suggesting that she might have to be sent somewhere else to find some sense. Olivia finds that she is interested in what her mother says, and resolves to listen in whenever she can. She becomes a spy, and blends in with her surroundings to overhear conversations.
Readers will laugh out loud at her attempts to remain hidden, pointing out her features concealed on the pages.
But of course she hears something which is upsetting, she overhears the word 'institution' and asking her teacher next day what this word means, finds that sometimes it means a prison.
She is distraught and so when her mother tells her she has a surprise and to get ready to go out, she is ready to be sent to prison. Imagine her delight when it is the ballet they come to see, but there is another twist in the tale for readers, as nothing Olivia does is straightforward. A cautionary tale told in the most delightful way, Olivia's adventure will have readers laughing out loud as they recognise the adage 'eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves'. Wonderful illustrations compliment the story, showing Olivia in all manner of disguise as she attempts to avoid being seen.
Fran Knight

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