The book grabs your interest right away with the phrase “Oliver is somewhat unusual. He has a very special ability to attract rare and unusual events.” I was intrigued to see what these events would be. But then the page says, “He understands that his mommy is gone. He has always felt her nearby. He has a guardian angel.” This threw me off. I wasn’t sure of the connection between the ability to attract rare and unusual events and having his mother as a guardian angel.
As Oliver grew older, he learned to walk quickly without falling because of his guardian angel assisting him. He learned to ride a bike with her help too. She pulled them out of the way of oncoming traffic because he wasn’t watching where he was going. She caught him, and the rice when he fell off a box. She helped him impress his aunt with karate moves he didn’t know. She cooled down his bathtub water and shut the window. He slid down the banister without falling as she held him. I was somewhat disappointed that the “fantastic adventures of Oliver Phenomena” were ordinary family occurrences. Perhaps just “Oliver and the Guardian Angel” would’ve been a more suitable title.
The book ends, “Later, Mr. P. stood at Oliver’s door, and whispered, ‘Good night to you, son, and well… whoever keeps you safe.’ Oliver slept well that night knowing he had his guardian angel.”
The book is fairly easy to read with just enough vocabulary on each page. Oliver is a busy character. His situations are often humorous. I was hoping he would grow to become more independent as the story progressed, but there was no change in his development. This isn’t really a “plot” kind of story, more of a presentation of a religious concept. There really is no beginning, middle, or end and no real conflict because we know the angel will protect him. I would have enjoyed it more if Oliver had reached a state of independence and maturity that his mother could watch with confidence and relief. Her role then would have been to keep him safe up to that point.
Using full-page, full-color pictures, the illustrator, Joshua Aquino does a terrific job of conveying the nonstop activity of a little boy. Thankfully, he doesn’t draw the guardian angel mother with wings. She is perfect the way she is. She exudes motherly love in a gentle and charming way.
I might suggest that the illustrator add children of diversity to future books. One of Oliver’s friends could have been from an underrepresented group.
One question I ask myself when ever I review a children’s book is – So what does a child gain from reading this? If you have bought this book published by a Christian publisher, you are probably very comfortable with the concept of guardian angels. It may also be reassuring for your child to believe that a deceased parent is still loving and caring for him. However, a note of caution. I have known of children who put themselves at high risk because they have believed that their guardian angel will save them from any harm. One child even ran out into traffic. (It really jarred me when the child in this book did exactly that.) Please, if you read this book with your child, address this. It’s a complicated topic. On the one hand, you do not him or her want to think they can do any dangerous thing at all and their guardian angel will prevent them from injury or death. On the other hand, if you want your child to believe in guardian angels, then you’ll have to explain why his or hers is not protecting as well as Oliver’s. Whatever your belief system, just be prepared for a discussion before and after reading this book.
Because of the nature of this book, I am not rating the subject matter or the story line but instead I’m assessing the packaging of this concept.I did not know the subtitle of this book or I would not have accepted it for review. I do not want to review religious books.
I was given a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.