Happy Mother's Day
Sunday Afternoon Visits

Oliver's Must-Do List: Susan Taylor Brown and Mary Sullivan (illus)

Susan Taylor Brown, a fellow San Jose resident, was kind enough to send me copies of a couple of her books last week. In honor of Mother's Day, I'll review Oliver's Must-Do List (Boyds Mills Press, 2005) first. Oliver's Must-Do List is a picture book, illustrated by Mary Sullivan. It's probably best suited to four to six year olds, who will appreciate the richly detailed pictures.

Oliver is a baby rhinoceros with a tiny round stump of a horn. He has lots of toys and stuffed animals, and a cute little dog. But what he wants most is for his mother to play with him. Alas, she is too busy with all of the chores on her "must do" list, and Oliver spends a long day wistfully noting how much more fun things are when you have someone to play with. The next day, Oliver takes it upon himself to replace his mother's "must do" list with fun items of his own, and he and his mother share a very different day.

The illustrations in this book are remarkably detailed, with lots of hidden rewards to repay the careful viewer. My favorite such gift is a drawing of Oliver's patched pajamas, straining across his broad rear, with a stitched opening for his little tail. Oliver's dog is also priceless, expressive and mischievous, though never actually mentioned in the text. I also liked the detail that one day Oliver smells the clean in his favorite shirt, fresh out of the dryer, and the next day we see him wearing the shirt. Of course. It's his favorite, after all. It's all very careful attention to detail, with exuberant colors.

But what really makes Oliver's Must Do List shine is the story itself. Who hasn't noticed how difficult it is to play pirates or race-cars alone? And yet, what parent hasn't sometimes been too busy to play with an impatient child? Ultimately, Oliver's mother shows him just how much she loves him, through the time that they spend together. Now, isn't that a good story for Mother's Day? I highly recommend it.

For more about the authors, visit Susan Taylor Brown's blog, or Mary Sullivan's website.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.