Review by Annie Cronin Romano
In a children’s picture book market filled with a plethora of options from sweet to humorous, sentimental to adventurous, it’s easy to become overwhelmed in the search for a unique selection. OLIVER: THE SECOND-LARGEST LIVING THING ON EARTH (Page Street Kids, 2018) is a recent picture book release that stands out as distinctive in both story and underlying message. First, it’s about a sequoia tree, an original premise right there. The story is about Oliver’s desire to be the largest living this on earth, a wish that risks leading to an overly-didactic end message, but OLIVER is anything but obvious. Author Josh Crute uses simple yet engaging language in conveying the struggle of wanting to be the most important and the realization that there is more to our importance than ourselves alone. It’s a tough message for kids (and many adults!) to grasp, but Crute delivers it subtly and effectively. Oliver’s experiences and emotions are relatable, and his realization that his worth can be defined by something bigger than himself is presented with a light touch. Nonfiction elements and interesting backmatter introduce the reader to the mighty sequoia trees, as well as a couple other “second largest” players in our world. Illustrator John Taesoo Kim uses earthy greens and browns and a fun, bold style to add a gentle visual humor to Oliver’s journey. OLIVER: THE SECOND-LARGEST LIVING THING ON EARTH is a fiction picture book for children ages 4-8 years old. It would be a valuable addition to any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.
Josh Crute’s writing in this story is a solid example of how to include a moral in a subtle and engaging manner.
For more information on Josh Crute’s work, visit http://painted-words.com/portfolio/josh-crute/.
For info on John Taesoo Kim’s work, visit his website at http://www.johntaesookim.com/.
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