No Stone Unturned: Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer
IT WAS TIME FOR SPRING VACATION.
OLIVIA DECIDED THAT SHE AND HER FAMILY OUGHT TO SPEND A FEW DAYS IN VENICE.
"OLIVIA, YOU WON'T BE NEEDING YOUR SNORKEL," SAID HER MOTHER. "OR YOUR FLIPPERS."
"MOTHER, APPARENTLY THE CITY IS OFTEN UNDER WATER AND..."
"OR YOUR WATER SKIS"
Olivia quickly packs up a valise full of her trademark red-and-white-striped dresses. And airport security wands are just another novel adventure for the extroverted Olivia.
AS THEY WENT THROUGH THE AIRPORT, OLIVIA WAS SEARCHED FOR WEAPONS. SHE WAS VERY PLEASED.
In Venice Olivia is in her element. She tours palazzos, feeds the sky-darkening flocks of pigeons in the Piazza San Marco in an hilarious parody of Hitchcock's The Birds, and after getting a snoutful of the Old World charm of the city, soothes her overwhelmed senses with multiple gelatos--so many in fact that the, er, enhanced family nearly swamps their gondola when they see the city by water from the Grand Canal.
"TOURISTS!" MUTTERED THE GONDOLIER. "TOO MANY GELATOS!"
And then it's their last day. Olivia's family has visited all the touted tourist traps in town, and they go back to the Piazza to soak up the scene one last time. But Olivia isn't content with just photos to remember her trip by.
"I MUST HAVE SOMETHING TO REMEMBER VENICE BY. I MUST FIND THE PERFECT SOUVENIR."
Perfume? Olivia hates perfume. Lace? Not very Olivian. Olivia finds nothing among the touristy shops to capture the essence of Venizia. At last she returns proudly to her parents, sipping their espressos, with something heavy in hand.
"ONE OF THE STONES OF VENICE!" SHE EXULTS.
"OLIVIA!!!" SCOLDED HER MOTHER. "IF EVERYONE TOOK A PIECE OF VENICE WITH THEM, THE CITY WOULD FALL DOWN!"
Mother's warning is prophetic. Olivia, who as we know can do nothing in a small way, has apparently chosen the very stone from the bell tower that has kept it upright all these centuries, and as the horrified parents gather up Olivia and her brothers and flee the Piazza, we see the tower crack and crumble and collapse behind them, to the amazement of the sightseers all around. Olivia has definitely left her mark on St. Mark's Square, and Venice will never be the same again!
Ian Falconer's new Olivia Goes to Venice (Atheneum, 2010) succeeds on several levels. It's pure Olivia, brash, self-confident, and always on stage, and to show her off, Falconer sets his detailed and stylized charcoal and gouache drawings boldly against picturesque color photos of the beautiful Venetian landscape. Wry humor turns this tale from a travelogue to a giggle fest of a Grand Tour for the picture book set.