Books Picture Books Pig-Out Yuletide Reading Themes

Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer

Three days more to go before Christmas. Have you done all your Christmas shopping? Wrapped all your presents? Fixed your Christmas menu and done your groceries? Placed the final touches on your Christmas tree trimmings? Yup. Most of the world’s abuzz this time of the year. And this picture book by Ian Falconer captures that zany, chaotic, frenzied feel of the holiday season. I particularly love this picture book because it marries both our themes for the month – pig tales and Yuletide stories! There can only be one Olivia indeed.

This resonates with how most people must be feeling right now. Absolutely dead tired yet they still have a zillion of things to do.

Kids and Christmas. Usually when parents are extremely harried and just plain preoccupied, kids use this time to offer their wonderful invaluable assistance (which usually brings out more trouble than good) to help out around the house. Olivia did just that.

She took the initiative to feed her baby brother William slices of blueberry pie (which he was allergic to and made him horribly sick), she offered to help untangle the Christmas lights

Tangled Olivia

(she ended up hopelessly ensnared by the blinking wires and lights and ended up calling for her Mummy), and she helped set the dinner table, decorating it with this perfectly-cute little tree (which she cut off from their huge Christmas tree, how resourceful is that).

And Olivia's Mom wonders where this adorable little tree came from

The Santa Watch. A lot of people claim that Christmas is really for the children, what with all the toys (consumerism abounds this millennium), brightly-wrapped presents, and hi-tech gadgets that they wish ‘Santa’ would give them on Christmas eve (granting that they’ve been good boys and girls). Olivia shares with us this child-like anticipation of beautiful things to come:

Avidly waiting for Santa and the reindeers at 4 in the afternoon
Uh-oh. Still no Santa.
Santa must have been held up in the Arctic. He's Late for Christmas.

Family Rituals and Traditions. Over and above the presents, perhaps what makes Christmas distinctive is the entire family tradition that goes with the celebration of the

Olivia's Star Quality Shines Through

season. Olivia shares with us this magical time of togetherness spent with the family with her singing G-l-o-r-i-a on top of her lungs as everyone sings round the piano, then you have the age-old tradition of leaving treats and cookies for Santa (as he goes down the chimney and leaves presents for the good boys and girls – not the naughty ones, no-siree!)


Cookies and milk especially for Santa

and gathering round the fireplace with hot cocoa and good conversation (wearing the sweatshirts and jackets that you received from your grandmothers or your aunts).

Family gathered round for Christmas
yummy bibingka (rice cake)

In the Philippines, there is an entirely different set of family rituals and cultural traditions altogether: there is the midnight mass (or Simbang Gabi) with the familiar Filipino delicacy made especially yummy during this time of the year (bibingka and puto bumbong), the never ending Christmas parties with the staple videoke, monito-monita (or exchange gifts), and yes, not to forget the Traffic Around the City. Absolutely monstrous. But the energized feeling and the warmth and good cheer could be felt all around you.

Olivia’s book could serve as a wonderful take-off point to talk about lovely traditions and rituals around different parts of the world during this time of the year. It is also a beautiful read-aloud come Christmas eve with the kids gathered all around you.

Olivia the Pig has a website all her own (yes she has a HUGE following, this charming little piglet) which you can find here.  The author, Ian Falconer, is famous as an illustrator for The New Yorker before he became known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, the most famous of which would be his Olivia series. The Olivia website indicates that he has an impressive background in Art having graduated from NYU (New York University), Parsons School of Design and the Otis Institute. He has also collaborated with noted artist David Hockney to design stage productions in various places such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and London (source could be found here).

This is Ian talking about Olivia and the work that he does with this spunky feisty piglet who now has a life of her own. Enjoy!

Book was bought (and book photos were taken) by me.
Image of Bibingka from


Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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