By Natalie MAIER
As the crowd stood outside, little hands and noses were pressed tightly against the glass and small eyes peered longingly into the bookstore. When the doors finally opened, the children came rushing inside, their faces full of pure excitement and anticipation.
“Where’s Olivia?” one girl demanded as she entered. She was just one of the many children waiting to meet the famous pig Olivia.
America’s oldest children’s bookstore, Once Upon a Time located in Montrose, hosted its first breakfast picnic on Saturday, Sept. 15. The event was a celebration of Ian Falconer’s new children’s book, “Olivia and The Fairy Princesses” which was released on Aug. 28 and is the renowned pig’s seventh adventure.
Earlier this summer a publisher from Simon and Schuster contacted Once Upon a Time and asked if store owner Maureen Palacios would be interested in hosting an “Olivia costumed event.” She agreed and came up with the idea to host a picnic breakfast. The publishers sent two large trunks filled with dress-up clothes for the children and hired an actress to come and play the character of Olivia.
A total of 20 event tickets were sold (one ticket admitted one child and parent and provided a copy of the book) and the small bookstore was filled with enthusiastic children between the ages of three and five, accompanied by their parents. Some children came dressed up; one girl was a princess, another wore a pink fluffy tutu, while others toted stuffed animals such as Minnie Mouse.
Guests came from La Crescenta, La Cañada, Tujunga and Pasadena. Only those who purchased tickets in advance were allowed admission, while others were sadly turned away due to lack of space.
The event began with breakfast of homemade bacon and Monterey Jack cheese quiches, chocolate chip mini muffins, animal crackers and a fruit kabob. While the guests were enjoying their food sitting in a large circle on the floor, bookstore employee Kris Vreeland read the new story aloud.
After the cleanup of breakfast, Olivia herself made an appearance, much to the children’s pleasure. Within seconds of her grand entrance, the children swarmed around the character, hugging and petting her.
“Olivia’s so big!” one girl exclaimed. The costume was indeed large and tall, even compared to the size of a grown adult, but Olivia’s size didn’t stop the kids from smothering her with love. One little girl even got upset when her mom pulled her away explaining to her that the other kids wanted a turn with Olivia.
An organized line soon formed, and the kids eagerly waited their turn to get a picture with their favorite pig. Snaps and flashes from the parents taking dozens of pictures coupled with the sound of children’s laughter filled the bookstore.
Although it was extremely crowded inside, the overall atmosphere was cheerful and welcoming.
When asked what the guests might have gained from attending the event, Palacios replied, “[The children and parents] got a fun and a wonderful book that talks about being yourself and how you don’t have to be like everybody else. [The book] is about being different and empowers anyone who reads it to be whatever they want to be.”
Vreeland, who has worked at the bookstore for a year, says she loves her job and enjoys working for Palacios.
“You never know what is going to happen everyday,” she said. “It’s an adventure.”