Review: Olive’s Ocean

Olive's Ocean

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes


Martha and Olive were not really friends – not the way real friends should be if you are in middle school. Olive hardly knew who Martha was. Until Martha is hit by a car while riding her bike home from school. Martha’s mother brings Olive something that makes her realize that perhaps in Martha’s mind, they were friends. Olive struggles with her own feelings about what this means in her relationships in the present – and what it meant to Martha who is part of the past. Olive’s usual life, full of normal and ordinary moments, is suddenly cast in a different light and although she is ready to spend her summer once again in the waves off Cape Cod, she cannot escape the invisible presence of the dead girl. Not even blossoming romance on the Cape can pull Olive from her emotional ocean.

This is a very interesting story in the way Henkes brings Olive’s struggle to deal with the death of a classmate and her own guilt that she may have wasted the chance to have a real friend. It is not a ghost story but young readers will feel Martha there in the pages.

Greenwillow Books (2001)

ISBN 9780060535452

Price: $7.00

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 680; ATOS 4.7

Qualitative: Middle Grades (4-8)

Common Core Standards: RL.5.3, RL.5.4, RL.5.6, RL.5.9

Literary A wards: Newbery Honor (2004)

Annotation: When someone’s memory haunts you, it feels like a ghost is walking with you, speaking to you, questioning you. Life is like an ocean and emotions can feel like waves. This story brings to life the impact of a school mate’s death for one young girl who struggles to understand the nature of her own life.

Personal Note: Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite authors and his works range from picture books for very young readers up to wonderful stories for middle grade readers, such as Olive’s Ocean. His series with Lilly (Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse) and Chrysanthemum are wonderful for read alouds with lower grades. Kevin Henkes’ latest is The Year of Billy Miller (Greenwill Books, 2013). Check it out!



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