As a parent who has read Bolivar to his children multiple times, it’s safe to say that kids get something out of this story, and more so than the words being told. The design of this story brings attention to the illustrations, as Bolivar the dinosaur can be seen on many of these pages, much like you’d find in Where’s Waldo? (originally Where’s Wally? in the United Kingdom). From page to page, kids will be peering closer as they hope to get a glimpse of Bolivar’s nose, tail, or any part of him – much like the character Sybil who knows she’s seen a dinosaur, but no one believes her.
From a parent’s perspective, it’s sometimes easy to dismiss kids when they exclaim that they saw something monumental, especially when it’s compared against what a sibling didn’t see. Parents might be familiar with hearing larger-than-life claims, which generally means your kids have fantastic imagination when describing zombies they’re trying to escape from or a wicked witch they’re trying to melt. Sybil faces those same moments with her own mom when trying to explain what she’s seen, but the mother is too busy with work and only passes it off as something to be found in a museum.
Yes, kids will tell stories, and yes, parents need to listen to them. It’s important to take a step back – hit the pause button on our busy lives and listen to what they’re saying. It might be their imagination. Perhaps they’re trying to explain how they hurt their knee and it’s all their sibling’s fault. Maybe, throughout all of these conversations, kids will find something from their parents just by stopping and listening – patience and an audience that truly appreciates what they’re saying, even if it’s the tenth time being told the same story.
Creator Rubin does a wonderful job of highlighting something that happens in everyday life. Kids are natural explorers, wanting to understand everything they see, while parents have to navigate those questions gently (depending on the topic) and also take care of all of the other necessary duties (i.e., making sure bills are paid, the house is clean, chores and errands are completed, etc.). So, when readers see the mom redirect or not fully understand the scope of Sybil’s concerns, it’s absolutely relatable.
As for that giant dinosaur that nobody sees (except for Sybil), Bolivar is a calm and soft-spoken creature who seems to really love the life he has. Another theme that’s a great conversation starter for kids is the question they’ll ask, “How come no one notices the big dinosaur?” There are times in our lives, at some point, where moments pass by and then we wonder if anyone noticed our presence. It’s such an important take on those who have felt invisible at one time or another, especially since Bolivar himself has grown accustomed to not being seen. This is great to share with kids, so they understand that, sometimes, the world goes by, and even if all of our moments aren’t noticed, it doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.
As parents, if we can stop and listen as often as we can, maybe that will be enough to let our kids know that they are loved, appreciated, and heard. No one is perfect, but maybe listening to your kid’s imagination where they describe (again) how they narrowly escaped that monster will lead them to be more open with communication in the future. Rubin’s Bolivar is a beautiful story that brings out questions from kids, making parents realize the significance of their child’s wonder.
Despite verbally stating to her mother that she’s seen a dinosaur, Sybil also tries to get proof to further validate her claims – to be heard and believed. Rubin cleverly picks up on children’s curiosity and why kids might do certain things. If a kid is climbing a ladder and decides, “I think I’ll jump down now,” they might wonder if it’s okay to jump from the third or fourth rung. Well, sometimes, the proof comes from doing it and then realizing, “Yep, I can do that.”
Much like athletes trying to break records, writers or artists trying to fine-tune their craft, or parents trying to improve their lawncare skills, people, hopefully, will seek validation from within, but it can be quite endearing to know others appreciate you for what you’ve done. And Sybil is trying to do just that. She is trying to find proof to validate her. She wants her mom and others to know that she was being honest, that she can see a dinosaur, and that her enormous claim doesn’t or shouldn’t make her invisible with a “sure, sure” response.
Parenting can be hard. Life can get busy. Bolivar reminds us that despite all of those things, our kids will still be curious. They will still ask questions, and they will look for answers. A child’s imagination is a wonderful gift, and so is their desire to learn new things and better understand what mommy or daddy might already know.
Bolivar is absolutely a story parents should read to their kids, not only because children will love it, but because parents will appreciate the struggles from a giant dinosaur and a little girl and how it’s relatable to many. This fun adventure will only fuel your child’s sense of imagination as they go on a journey with Bolivar and Sybil, where two “invisible” beings will find each other and discover how one person’s attention might mean the world to the other, and the start of a beautiful friendship.
You can find Bolivar online for purchase in hardcover or digital copies.