Get a free SCARS short story. Sign up for News & Goodies from YA Author Cheryl Rainfield
Love my books? Join my Street Team! You'll have my deep gratitude, hear book news first, get swag, and enter to win private contests
Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Oliver Has Something to Say!
Oliver Has Something to Say!
by Pamela Edwards, illustrated by Louis Pilon
Lobster Press,(April 2007)
"Oliver, dear, would you like some more spaghetti?" asked his mom at the dinner table.
Oliver opened his mouth and his big sister, Margaret, said, "No, he doesn't want any more. He's got sauce all over his face and noodles in his hair."
Oliver closed his mouth.
"You're right," said Mom.
She looked at Oliver.
"Go wash your face, dear. I'll deal with your hair later."
Oliver looked down at his plate.
A noodle fell out of his hair and landed there.
--Oliver Has Something to Say!, by Pamela Edwards, illustrated by Louis Pilon, p. 1-2.
Four-year-old Oliver is shy, and doesn't talk at all--his family answers for him every time he's asked a question. They assume they know what he likes and wants, and don't listen to his body language. Oliver keeps trying to tell them, but they don't listen--until finally one night when Oliver makes them listen. Do you know a shy child, or were you shy yourself as a child? This book will appeal to shy readers. It strikes a chord in me; I was a shy, introverted child myself, so I really enjoy Oliver Has Something to Say!. This is definitely a book worth checking out.
Throughout the book, Oliver opens his mouth to say something, and the others speak for him instead. This could quickly get overwhelming, but Oliver's continued small acts of rebellion help to balance out the others taking over--such as Oliver locking the door on his sister after she rushes out with the goody bags when he was about to tell the guests they'd forgotten them, and his patting a dog and letting it lick his face, even though his sister says he's scared of dogs. Still, I would have liked to see the rebellion come in just a little sooner--or have there be a few less incidents where people take over for him, before he begins to rebel.
Oliver's family seems absolutely clueless and insensitive, ignoring his nonverbal communication, but they do not come off as cruel--just obtuse. They seem to care about Oliver, which helps.
Oliver increasingly becomes stronger in his small rebellions as the story progresses, which helps the reader root for him, wanting him to succeed, and helps balance out what could otherwise be too painful a book. Although Oliver's family keep ignoring his attempts to make himself heard, it's clear to the reader what he wants and doesn't want.
Edwards makes the point of how a child can get used to others answering for her/him, and so may feel unable to speak when they are on their own--until they are encouraged to. Oliver's teacher, who clearly listens to Oliver and helps him break through his silence, is refreshing and provides some comfort and relief for the reader. Oliver (and the reader, through the story) is encouraged to speak up, and speaking up is shown to be a positive thing.
When Oliver finally rebels against others making all the decisions and speaking for him, by telling his family what he does and doesn't like, the reader will cheer for him. Edwards shows us great character change through Oliver, and shows us Oliver coming into his own strength and self. There's also humor and a feeling of satisfaction when for once it's Oliver who's speaking, and the others who are opening their mouths without words coming out. Although it takes him a while to get there, Oliver is the true hero of the story; he is the one who breaks through his own silence and gets past others always answering for him. He makes himself heard.
Edwards creates instant reader empathy for Oliver, through other characters not giving him the space to speak and not listening to him, and through his obviously sad body language in the text (Oliver bowing his head and the spaghetti falling off). There's a lot of text in the story, but the frequent dialogue helps make the text move quickly. Oliver's small rebellions also help the story move forward, as the reader will want to see him succeed.
Oliver Has Something to Say! will appeal to many readers--young readers, shy readers, readers who know what it's like to have someone else try to control you (as most children experience at one time or another). The story shows some of the powerlessness of being a child, and the way people control you, often without realizing it. When a child is hesitant, shy, or has trouble speaking up, it's often easy for the people around the child to take over and speak for the child--but in doing so, this can take away the child's voice, as this book so clearly shows. Oliver Has Something to Say! has an important message woven into the story--that it's not only good, but important to be heard, and that even if you're shy, you can do it, if you give yourself enough time.
Pilon uses an expressive cartoon style. There is strong, clear emotion in every illustration; Oliver, who has such trouble speaking, has a very small mouth parted in an tiny O, while his eyes take up most of the room on his face. Oliver's anger and resistance when he locks the door on his sister are so strong and clear that you can really feel it, and it makes me laugh. And when Oliver finally speaks up, his happiness and delight is made strong by his grinning open mouth and wide eyes, and the sound lines that radiate from his head. Pilon captures the feeling of the text; the text and illustration work beautifully together. The cartoon-style illustrations also add some lightness and humor to the book; it's especially fun to see Oliver's bossy sister visually freak out when Oliver lets a dog lick his entire face--especially since the sister appears smug earlier in the book.
Colors are soft and bright. Oliver always stands out, in part through his wearing a red t-shirt or his standing by something red, which helps make him a visual focus point, and in part by his huge eyes, which are almost always larger than any other character's. Setting and background are often slightly faded, bringing characters into the foreground and into the reader's attention.
One to two illustrations appear on each page, with some illustrations in small contained boxes, which adds to the cartoon feel of the book and helps match the pace of the text. Often illustrations from the same scene appear on a spread, which brings a feeling of continuity. Characters are often in motion, looking natural (such as when Oliver's mom is seen carrying laundry down the hall, for her one line in that illustration). Characters are never static.
Oliver Has Something to Say! works well; Oliver has a problem that he solves himself--a problem that many children can relate to. Do you know a shy child, or a child who has a hard time speaking up? Give them this book; it may help them to feel understood or less alone. Oliver Has Something to Say! encourages self-confidence, speaking up, and listening to others. This is a great story with depth and understanding of how it feels to be a shy child. It's easy to read and to relate to. Highly recommended!
-Added December 13, 2007
Want more books?
Go back to How to Feel Better: Coping & Working With Emotion to find great Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach.
Or, go to Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach to see all of the books.