________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 12. . . November 24, 2017


Where Oliver Fits.

Cale Atkinson.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2017.
40 pp., hardcover & epub, $21.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-101-91907-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-101-91908-8 (epub).

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Christina Quintiliani.

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

**** /4

Where Oliver Fits is the most recent publication from acclaimed Canadian author and illustrator Cale Atkinson. Mirroring the creative and colourful illustrative style of his past works, including Maxwell the Monkey Barber, Explorers of the Wild and To the Sea, Atkinson’s latest work is a visual treat.

     This charming picture book presents the story of a tiny puzzle piece on a quest to determine where he is intended to “fit in” in relation to other puzzle pieces. With high hopes about the type of puzzle theme he may indeed be an ideal match for, he sets out on a journey of discovery. Sadly, it isn’t long before Oliver discovers that he does not seem to fit in quite anywhere. Belittled by the other puzzle pieces, he is informed that his mismatched colours and distinctive shape do not make him a sufficient candidate for established puzzle sections. Disheartened by the lack of acceptance, Oliver goes to great lengths to alter his appearance in an attempt to fit in. After many efforts and explorations of possible disguises, Oliver opts to paint himself entirely purple and finds temporary joy in being accepted by fellow purple puzzle pieces. However, it isn’t long before Oliver comprehends that, in disguising his outer appearance, he was also masking what made him individually unique. Realizing the importance of remaining true to himself, he abandons the situation and sheds his disguise. Although the decision resulted in him being alone once again, it was not long before he met two other puzzles pieces who, like himself, had attempted to mask who they truly were in hopes of being accepted by others. Excitingly, Oliver discovers that he fits perfectly with these miscellaneous pieces, and together, they form the link between the other larger puzzle portions introduced earlier in the book.

…everything didn’t feel perfect.

In fact, it didn’t feel right at all.

“If I have to hide and pretend I’m someone else,

am I really still me?” Oliver thought.

     Atkinson’s animated illustrations and lighthearted storyline complement one another quite effortlessly. The realistic appearance of the vibrant puzzle pieces depicted in all shades of the rainbow will surely capture the attention of young readers. Atkinson creatively integrates dialogue through the insertion of speech bubbles. This approach is effective in keeping the main storyline text separate from character interactions. Alternating between white and fully coloured backgrounds is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and Atkinson’s clever use of shadow helps to convey the emotional tones of the story, particularly when Oliver is left alone to contemplate what has taken place.

     Where Oliver Fits would function as a helpful bridge into classroom discussion and reflection on the importance of celebrating individual differences in spite of any hardship or peer pressure that may come as a result of straying from the norm. Readers of all ages who have ever felt somewhat lost or unsure of their individual role in a grander situation will unquestionably relate to the sentiments and experiences of Oliver. Atkinson’s book is a lovely reminder that, with a little patience and realization, good things come to those who embrace their uniqueness without having to conform or change who they are for the sake of others. This beautifully presented book would be an ideal “fit” for any school or classroom library and would serve as a wonderful “match” for home collections as well.

Highly Recommended.

Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON., where she is researching children’s literature.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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