Oliver by Birgitta Sif

Introverts have it tough. Sadly, since the world is made up of a greater percentage of extroverts who make it harder for quieter voices to be heard and understood, anyone who doesn’t quite fit the outgoing, social-butterfly mould is often ostracised for being ‘shy’, ‘a loner’, or just plain weird — and made to feel almost apologetic for being the way they are. For kids, especially, it can be hard to feel — and/or be teased for being — different, especially since it’s so much easier to blend in and be (or pretend to be) the same as everyone else. These are the kids who should read Oliver.

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The eponymous hero of the book is an introvert who is happy to spend time alone playing with his toys; in fact, his days are filled with exciting adventures — albeit imaginary ones — that he shares with his pretend-friends. Alas, even contented introverts have moments where they wish they could talk to and laugh with someone who understands them. Then one day, while on one of his solo adventures, Oliver unexpectedly meets someone special.

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The beautiful illustrations complement the quiet, contemplative nature of the text perfectly, and the book is almost like a big bear hug for anyone — particularly introverts — who has ever felt different or alone. It’s also obvious from the compassionate way in which it has been created, that the author understands all too well what it’s like to feel that way — note that she took pains to emphasise that it’s OK to feel different, and that it’s OK to like spending time alone. Oliver isn’t unhappy to be different, nor is he dismissed to be ‘shy’; instead, he’s just happy to be who he is. I also loved the ending, which reminds and gives hope to introverts that even though they feel different, they are not alone in feeling that way — and that a true friend is someone who will understand and appreciate you for who you are. And hey, some of the coolest people in the world are introverts.

An apt quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

Watch this book trailer featuring the cool Icelandic author/illustrator:

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