Perfect Picture Book Friday – Oliver

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

Title: Oliver

Author/Illustrator: Judith Rossell

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: Curiosity; imagination; mothers/sons

Opening: “How do planes stay up in the sky?” Oliver asked. Oliver liked finding things out.

“Wings,” said his mom with her mouth full of clothespins.


Oliver found out everything he could about wings.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) “How do planes fly?”

“How does our fridge work?”

“Can I breathe underwater like a fish?”

Oliver is a curious explorer, so he asks a lot of questions.

Then, one day in the bathtub, he hears a strange gurgle. “What lives down the drain?” he wonders. Soon Oliver is headed down the drain in his homemade submarine on a spectacular mission. But will this clever inventor be able to discover a way back?

What makes it great: The book begins as a true-to-life story of a little boy who loves exploring the world and making things. It later launches, fabulously, into a fantasy where Oliver has the “best fun ever” down the bathtub drain – but returns him safely home and reconnecting with his mother, à la Where the Wild Things Are.

What readers notice: Both kids loved the fact that Oliver threatens to poke a banana down the drain only to be stopped by his mother. He then says, “You never let me do anything!” which for some reason elicits giggles from both of them. They also love the spreads that show Oliver’s winding path down the drain, and then back up again.

What a writer notices: There are so many wonderful things about the way this story is put together, but what I love most is that every single element is purposeful and plays a part in both the beginning and the end of the story.

In the beginning, Oliver explores wings and flying, asks about penguins, and gets scolded for bubbling his milk through a straw. In his journey down the drain, Oliver finds that the gurgling noise he heard was made by a ship full of vacationing penguins, all slurping their drinks. They invite Oliver to fly with them and he solemnly informs them, “Penguins can’t fly. It takes more than just wings, you know.” His journey down the drain is surprising and fantastical, but at the same time, because of the elements the author introduced early in the story, makes complete sense within the story context.

Links to Resources: 

After reading this book, kids may be curious about where bathtub water actually goes. These sites have lesson plans and other resources about water systems:

Likewise, children might also be curious about penguins and why they can’t fly. This site has a wealth of penguin-related lesson plans and activities:

29 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Oliver

  1. Laura Renauld says:

    Blowing bubbles in milk has been a big deal in our house this week. I have to look this one up just for that! And what is more enticing than what’s down the drain? My boys love to watch the water swirl down. I think this one will be a winner. Great Share!

    • Carrie Finison says:

      I know, Tina. Sometimes I cringe at those kinds of things, but they wouldn’t actually do it. I don’t think. I do admit I very quickly returned to the library a book I mistakenly checked out about a brother cutting his sister’s hair.

  2. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Oh, I LOVE the sound of this book, Carrie! I’m going to have to read it immediately because I have a lot of questions about where bathtub water goes 🙂 Did you ever hear that rhyme – Alice, where are you going? Upstairs to take a bath?… 🙂 Love that cover, too! Thanks! 🙂

  3. Catherine Johnson says:

    That sounds adorable. I wrote a poem about a girl who went down a drain and passed goblins and things but it got a bit dark lol, which is about right for a drain story 🙂 I’m definitely going to look out for this.

  4. Beth Stilborn says:

    Oh, I’m SO glad you featured this book, Carrie! I read it a few weeks ago, but then my PPBFs went off on another tangent, and I couldn’t fit it in. It’s such a great book! Perfect activity suggestions, as well. Thank you! 😀

    • Carrie Finison says:

      Hi Judith- It’s very nice to hear from you. I did love the book, as you can tell. My mother also read it to my kids when she was here and was laughing out loud. I’ll definitely be seeking out your other books. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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