Oliver the Toaster
by E. M. Olson
Archway Publishing

"He realized that he could be anything he wanted to be."

From secret forts to alien spaceships, decorated doll houses to robots, many an empty cardboard vessel has gone through a metamorphosis by way of a child's imagination. Here business attorney E. M. Olson has written a delightful children's book with a relative message at the heart of the story. In this case, both literally and figuratively, the focus is on thinking outside the box.

Tired of being just an ordinary boy, we see young Oliver put his creative mind to work and decide to become a toaster. With a simple cardboard box and some crayons, Olson's central character transforms himself into a pop-up appliance and goes about his day proving to those around him that even as a toaster he can still do all the things he used to do, prior to his new identity. He helps his mom in the kitchen, works with his dad in the garden, and plays video games with a friend. But unable to fall asleep at the end of the day, Oliver finally realizes that the actual box has proved to be the impediment in his mobility. The take away reveals that even without an outer costume, Oliver can use his imagination to become whatever he wants to be, and ultimately he realizes that he is beyond the realm of ordinary.

Colorful illustrations provided by Julie Craigo add a nice touch to this book. The simplicity of the central toaster image is highlighted in the artwork via entertaining visuals that easily compliment the narrative. Outlined, cut-out eye hole, and Oliver's protruding arms wave outside the box to provide the perfect showcase for his expressions.

In the world of storytelling, especially for children, imagination is key. While Olson presents a simple tale, he charms readers with a character that experiences an extraordinary change. Like the familiar Marlo Thomas '70's children's classic, Free to Be ... You and Me. Olson smartly focuses on not allowing obstacles to get in our way and genuinely affirms that imagination can help direct us toward our individuality and our future.

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