“Olympig!” by Victoria Jamieson is the story of Boomer the pig. It’s also a story of determination and desire. And hard work and practice. And it’s a story about reality.
Boomer is determined to win at the Animal Olympic Games. When the newsman, Mr. Hamstring, interviews Boomer, he asks, “The other animals in the Olympics will be faster and stronger than you. Tell me, Boomer, how can you possibly win a gold medal tomorrow?”
Boomer, full of optimism and determination, replies, “Oh, I’m sure I will win! If you practice and try your best, you can do anything!”
Of course, Boomer is a pig. The contenders in the race include a greyhound, a hare, a cheetah, and a zebra. They don’t just leave Boomer in the dust — the dust is faster than Boomer. Undaunted, Boomer continues on to the next event.
No surprise that the elephant is able to lift more weight than Boomer, And the flying squirrel is able to pole vault higher than Boomer. The gorilla is better at wrestling, and Boomer loses at hurdles and boxing, too.
The next event, diving, is one at which Boomer is sure he can excel. Sadly, the judges don’t like his performance (a belly flop) at that event either. Boomer throws a tantrum and quits. But when, on national television, his mama tells the cynical Mr. Hamstring that she’s proud of Boomer no matter what, his determination and dreams of glory kick in, and he decides to perform in the last event. And when the reporter splutters that there’s no way Boomer can win, the Olympig doesn’t care. His gymnastic routine is, of course, no better than any of his other performances. It’s abysmal. But Boomer, at the very end, while sporting the worst score in Animal Olympic history, declares that this has been great practice for the Winter Olympics.
Kids love this picture book. They think the message is that if you try hard and practice like Boomer, you can do anything you want. But if you ask them, “If Boomer practices and tries and tries, will he ever win a race against a greyhound?” the kids don’t know what to say. They’ve been taught that so long as you try hard and are determined, you can do anything. In reality, as we know, this is not strictly true.
This picture book is a great tool to teach children that in spite of what their parents and teachers tell them, not all kids can realize their most fervent dreams. A child who wants to be a professional NBA player can work and work and practice and practice, but he should have a backup plan. A trumpet player can practice and learn for hours and hours every day, but he or she should have a day gig, just in case.
It’s a great lesson for teaching kids about reality: that while they might be wonderful at math, there might be another area in which they don’t excel. I love teaching kids that they need to find the area in which they do excel, and something they do love. We can’t all excel at everything, and certainly not all of us are going to be successful Olympic athletes. But if you’re realistic in your goals, and work hard, you’ll achieve them. And if you love to partake in certain kinds of activities even though you know that you’ll never be really terrific at them — well, that’s just fine, too!
Review originally from the now-defunct Examiner.com website.