Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer

Like Kay Thompson’s Eloise or Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta in pig form, Olivia just wants to help with Christmas, to be involved. She also lacks any type of patience. Things must happen, NOW, and if they don’t she’ll make them happen. It’s the perfect cocktail for a non sentimental Christmas book that all children will be able to relate to this close to Christmas.

’Twas the day before Christmas… Not a Piglet was stirring. Well maybe just one.’ Olivia is wound even tighter than usual, her impatient snout stuck up the sooty chimney and against a wet window pane as she awaits Santa’s arrival.

To pass the time she gets involved in the decorating leading to a series of great sight gags. We see her wound up in Christmas lights, which her mother sensibly turns on.

Loudmouthed carols and the usual Christmas customs do little to settle her, as she lies restlessly in bed awaiting his arrival, a racoon a poor substitute for a herd of reindeer on the roof.

Ian Falconer is a set designer turned children’s book author. His flair for theatrical design informs much of his witty visual style. Just look at the three little pigs as they stand transfixed at the actual picture postcard view of a back garden turned into alpine paradise. There are great fold out spreads too, expanding the limits of this aleady oversized picture book as far as possible.

The book finishes with Olivia, finally exhausted by a day of snow pig making and skiing, falls asleep and dreams. She dreams that she is Clara in the Nutcracker. It’s just been announced that Falconer will be designing the sets for his very own version of Hoffman’s ballet.

He’ll be taking over from Maurice Sendak, whose Nutracker at the Pacific North West Ballet is finally coming to and end after more than thirty years. Judging by Olivia’s dream Nutcracker, he’ll make a worthy successor.


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