Bedtime Stories: Olivia & the Countdown to Getting Busted!

This post was inspired in part by Carl Honoré’s wonderful talk at PopTech on his book In Praise of Slowness – specifically the temptation of the one-minute bedtime story. Someday my girls will thank him. For thanks to him I take a deep breath and remember to embrace the bedtime moment.


This is Olivia.

She is good at lots of things.

She is good at wearing me out

…since my daughter will only let me read this book to her. She doesn’t wear my daughter out.

Olivia lives with her mother, her father, her brother,

and two pets Perry and Edwin whose names really don’t work well in French.

When Olivia gets dressed, she has to try on everything.

That’s 17 outfits, many of which could be called different things: sweater, jumper, turtleneck or ball-gown, opera-gown, evening-gown, opera dress… And if mummy doesn’t get it just right, Olivia’s #1 Fan reprimands me and makes me start over.

Every day Olivia is supposed to take a nap.

Mummy hates this page because how do you translate “It’s time for your you-know-what” to French? And what about the implied lack of obedience with the next dancing two-page spread headed

Of course Olivia’s not at all sleepy.

#1 Fan loves these 2 pages. “She’s dancing!”

On rainy days, Olivia likes to go to the Museum. There is one painting Olivia just doesn’t get.

– a Jackson Pollock so Olivia is clearly in good company.

“I could do that in about five minutes,” she says to her mother.

#1 Fan’s mother worries that she will also try it at home.

Time Out (and again this in French?!)

“Time out on the naughty steps” echoes #1 Fan.  Maybe I will be saved by #1’s glee at seeing others punished?

After a nice bath,
and a nice dinner,

Mummy wonders why they couldn’t have included some vegetables here.

it’s time for bed.
“But of course Olivia’s not at all sleepy”

Again sowing the seeds of discord.

“Only five books tonight, Mummy” she says.

Followed by:

Well Olivia’s really pushing it. And her mother – I mean what kind of example is she setting? Olivia can’t be more that four or five. Is she negotiating with a four-year-old? And who gets the better deal – they settle on THREE? Right there in black and white, the message:

Children, bug your parents and you will get your way.

Mummy’s adjusted version:

“No Olivia, just one.”
“How about four?”
“One.”
“Three.”
“No Olivia. Just one
and that’s it.”

#1 Fan currently recites this ending along with me. But it is only a matter of time before I am busted.

 Night night Olivia. Tomorrow, same time, same place.

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10 thoughts on “Bedtime Stories: Olivia & the Countdown to Getting Busted!

    • Thanks! And if you need some really good laughts – you should definitely listen to the talk I posted – it’s short, super interesting and will have you laughing a lot, which I always find a good remedy for exhaustion! I love your blog – apart from the fact it makes me want to rush over to France… must must find more airmiles…

  1. This post is hysterical! I laughed all the way through.

    Olivia gets on my last nerve. There’s another book, Olivia and the Missing Toy, that just steams me up every time we read it. I get into my lecture mode on every other page (e.g. “Should Olivia have just walked out of the room like she did? No, she should have said ‘thank you Mommy for making me that beautiful soccer uniform'”).

    There’s also some daddy preference issues in that book which drives me up a wall.

    Never thought of just changing the words… You are a quick thinker to do that in French no less.

    • aww Thanks Zoe! I thinking being able to make people laugh is the thing I aspire to the most. Laughter is the best drug these days.

      And glad to hear that about other Olivia books. I was about to try and hunt down some more but given P’s fascination with her and that she can do no wrong, I worry about examples she is setting.. LOL
      Oh and after the 47th reading, the translating on the fly happens pretty naturally though I may eventually try to find this one in French since she now wants me to run my fingers along the worlds as I read.

  2. What should I stay away from -any books you love to hate? Any must-reads? I’ll take English, Spanish or French recommendations happily and in fact in any language. (probably should have put this up when I first posted… oops.)

  3. A friend of mine shared this post on her FB page and it ended up creating a dialogue on bedtime stories. We decided to paste it in here since it stemmed from the post and I am always keen to hear about people’s likes and dislikes.

    Megan: Uh-oh, I LOVE Olivia! I’m not a huge fan of Curious George – the whole nabbing him from his natural environment is a buzz kill.
    19 October at 00:14 ·

    Megan: I just read the post – made me laugh. But that’s the thing about Olivia – to me it’s just funny. She’s funny. She just makes me laugh.

    Basheba: Right! At least Curious George is always sorry he made a terrible disaster. I’m with you, I find Olivia really bratty (for lack of a better adjective).
    19 October at 00:26

    Beth: What’s your take on Max and the Wild Things, Pierre?
    19 October at 00:30

    Zoë: ‎Megan, you are clearly a much more laid-back mom than me. :-) My husband likes Olivia just fine, but he’s the nice parent who feeds the kids cake and chocolate milkshakes and doesn’t worry so much about bedtimes. I totally get the monkey-out-of-the-wild thing, but I do think CG captures something genuine about how kids thinks and act. Olivia does too, obviously, but for me CG is more palatable.

    Mom, all of Sendak is in the inner-circle of holiness for me.
    21 October at 06:06

    Megan: This is why Joe calls me “hippie mom” all of the time. I do believe it’s a direct response to my own mother – who was a total hard ass! Total. Hard. Ass. Still is. Perfectionist. Rules, rules, rules. But I am pretty adamant about bed times and healthy foods – but I try not to sweat the small stuff, for sure. My sister and I are the same in our parenting styles . . . and I never thought I’d see the day – never! Also, I LOVE The Wild Things! My mother was a children’s librarian. You know who I can’t stand? Dr. Seuss!
    21 October at 06:20

    Zoë: Hop on Pop works for me. The others, not so much. I don’t find his stuff funny or interesting. My mom (Beth, above) was a librarian, too! Reference desk. No wonder we like each other! :-)

    I don’t mean to malign Mig, either–he’s also the one who insists on organic food and vitamins for the kids, and we mostly agree about bedtimes, I’m just more of a clock-watcher in that regard.
    21 October at 06:25

    Megan: Ha! I like some of Dr. Seuss – names are escaping me at the moment – what I don’t like are the made up words! It drives me batty! I don’t find it creative and clever but lazy. And really, it’s probably more clever/creative than lazy but there it is . . .
    21 October at 06:31

    Diane: -Thrush Stop trashing Dr. Seuss! Library brawl! ;) I love the made up words! And “Oh the thinks you can think” would be my manifesto, if I were the kind of person who had manifestos. Where are y’all on Margaret Wise Brown. I grieved when my kids got too old for Big Red Barn. Love the onamatapoeia (sp?) in that.
    21 October at 06:50

    Beth: I was thinking about Pierre and Max. They were very defiant little guys, but they sure had some consequences. Sent to bed without any supper? His parents went to town without Pierre? And what about those Frances books, and Edith the Lonely doll. Actual spanking (Edith) and threatened spanking (Frances– whack and smack)– and the Grimms the best of all. Serious consequences for sweet little boys and girls. It’s all great, don’t you think? The kids need a big variety in points of view. Intellectual freedom, and all that. I do get pretty sick of Dora though.
    21 October at 06:59

    Cordelia: Loving this exchange! (sort of sad it isn’t happening on my post’s comment page ) and I just got inspiration for another post! Yay!! Thanks Zoe for sharing with your friends. Xx
    21 October at 08:2

    Megan: I genuinely love The Lorax. Really great. I was not exposed to Dr. Seuss as a kid- so I don’t have that frame of reference. I’m sure that if I had I would love him as much as my husband does. It’s funny about the Wild Things – I never really thought of him as “bad” or about what may or may not have been going on in his life, I just saw this magical, wonderful world (that is until I watched the movie – what a strange, different, interesting interpretation). Has anyone read the bio on the author of Edith the Lonely Doll? What a sad and strange life.
    21 October at 09:18

    Ellen: such a funny thread. I despise curious george too. I told my kids the next time i want to hear it is when they read it to their kids (they are 3 and 7). we adore Dr. Seuss (the places you’ll go, sneetches, lorax) and Wild Things. Alexander and the terrible day is pretty popular over here too.
    21 October at 09:36

    Cordelia: Just to be clear, I don’t know that I hated Olivia to start with, but after 7 or 8 weeks of nightly reading – well that is just way too much pig. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought about the George out of habitat thing. I have to agree with Zoe that he captures how little kids seem to think and behave really well.
    21 October at 09:39

    Juliette: how did i miss this earlier? love the topic. here’s my stance: dislike CG (even though my kid drags a small stuffed CG all over town), dislike Seuss, dislike Dora, sorta tolerate Olivia (feel Olivia’s mom’s pain). Love: all of leo leonni’s books, Zion’s Harry the Dirty Dog, Leaf’s Ferdinand.
    21 October at 22:56

  4. Pingback: Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism October 2011. « Verbosity

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