I. Loved. This. Book.
When I saw Oliver's Tantrums sitting on the top shelf at the library, I thought to myself, "I need to read that book." Although it is a picture book, it looks as though they took photographs of the people in the book and created the pictures around the photo. The photo of the little boy looks similar to my oldest son, so I was drawn to the book.
This book is about a young boy, Oliver, who is upset because his mother is giving the new baby, Penny, more attention and is not spending time with him. At the beginning, he asks her several times to play with him and she can't because of something going on with Polly. He has a few tears, but it isn't until he found the "tantrum balls" in the attic that he was able to change anything. There were three balls -- water, food and toys. When he got upset, he would throw a tantrum ball at his mother to get his way. At first, it was the water ball (tears), which worked for awhile and then his mother was able to figure out how to stop those tantrums. After that he used the food ball (throwing food). Again, this worked for several weeks before mom was able to stop the tantrums. Finally, he threw the toy tantrum ball (when his toys got broken by Polly). It didn't take long for mom to get rid of this tantrum as well. Finally, at the end, he tried throwing all of the tantrum balls at once, when mom explained he would have to go to school. He yelled and screamed, worried that she didn't love him anymore and only wanted to get him out of the way so that she had more time with Penny. Mom was able to diffuse this tantrum by telling him how much she loved and missed him and that she would soon not be as busy with Polly.
Throughout Oliver's Tantrums, the illustrations were very dark. They show the upsetting nature that it is for everyone when a child throws a tantrum, for any reason. Illustrations, such as the spaghetti monster and floating food, jump out at the reader. Many of the pictures appear real, with some drawing finished around them, so I looked into the illustrator. He has a background in cinema animation, which is clearly shown in his work in this book.
I thought that this would be a good book that any older child, but especially imaginative young boy, who feels as though he is left out because of a new sibling. This could connect at any age, but I think would be appreciated (with discussion) by a kindergartner who is feeling as though his mom has sent him away to be able to be alone with the baby. Many young kindergartners don't understand why, all of the sudden, they don't get to spend time at home, and this could be a real fear of theirs. In this book, Todorov showed how the relationship between child and mother can change when another child is born, how an older child might feel about it, and how to deal with it. She leaves Oliver with an understanding of how much his mother does love him at the end, so he is able to get rid of the tantrum balls for good.
Until, of course, Polly finds them a few years later...