Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hogging the Spotlight: Olivia Acts Out by Jodie Shepherd

"I have some exciting news," announced Olivia's teacher, Mrs. Hoggenmuller.

"Our class play this year will be "The Fairy Queen!"

"And I will play the Fairy Queen," Olivia whispered to her friend Julian.

Olivia, that perennially perky porker, cannot believe her ears when Mrs. Hoggenmuller continues with the announcement that Francine--FRANCINE!--will play the Fairy Queen. To add insult to injury, Olivia waits for her role until there are only two left. Julian is happy with his non-speaking role as Tree, but Olivia is devastated with her part--COW NUMBER TWO. Not even Cow Number One! And the part has only one line--MOO. What can a born actress do with a line like that?

At home her dad listens sympathetically and then offers one bit of stage advice:

"Just remember: it's not what you say; it's how you say it."

Olivia is not reassured. After all, how many ways are there to say MOO? She tries out a few variations: full voice: MOO! soft and low: moo. plaintive: m-o-0-0--0-0-0! No good. This line just doesn't allow for much range. Olivia pins her hopes on Francine's failure. Francine does get rattled when Julian, allergic to his tree costume, keeps sneezing in the middle of her big lines. Maybe, just maybe, Olivia can be the understudy who goes on to save the show. "Don't worry," she confides to Mrs. Hoggenmuller. "I know every line and gesture."

But that doesn't happen. Francine forges on through rehearsal after rehearsal, and Olivia despairs of stardom until a chance remark by Julian gives her a great idea.
"What have cows EVER done that's interesting?" Olivia moans.

"Well," said Julian, "there was that one cow that jumped over the moon."

Suddenly Olivia's got it. If she doesn't have any great lines, there's always stage craft, and suddenly she has an idea for an over-the-moon bit of stage business that will steal the show right out from under Francine's queenly trotters!

Jodie Shepherd's adaptation of the screenplay, Olivia Acts Out, (Simon and Schuster, 2009)(based on the Nickelodeon production featuring Ian Falconer's character) gives the effervescent Olivia her spot in the limelight, in an ending which will delight young readers. Equipping herself a la Peter Pan, Olivia accompanies her one MOOO! with a show-stopping leap, landing just in time to take a bow, center stage, with Francine AND get the last line.


Olivia is nothing if not a born diva, and kids will enjoy her attempts to steal the show, even if they themselves, like Julian, would prefer an anonymous tree costume between them and the footlights. And don't forget Falconer's 2008 sweet and saucy Olivia Helps with Christmas (Olivia Series). These great stories, along with the charming Olivia in Classic Red Dress Doll, make a great stocking stuffer this year.

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