Olive's Ocean

by Kevin Henkes

Twleve-year-old Martha Boyle and her family are preparing to leave for their annual... read more

Twleve-year-old Martha Boyle and her family are preparing to leave for their annual Cape Cod vacation to visit her grandmother, Godbee, when Olive Barstow’s mother appears at the door. Olive was a classmate of Martha’s who was recently killed by a car. In the journal entry that Olive’s mother has come to share, Olive outlines her plan of becoming a writer and her dreams of seeing the ocean. She also writes that Martha Boyle is the nicest girl in her class. It’s all a jolt to Martha. Like everyone else, she didn’t know Olive well, and can’t recall ever being particularly kind to the misfit girl, with whom, she discovers too late, she had much in common. Martha, too, dreams of becoming a writer, although she hasn’t shared her desire with anyone. And the ocean is her favorite place to be. The unsettled feeling she’s left with is a portent of how the entire summer will unfold. On vacation, Martha is struck by the fact that her beloved grandmother is getting old. And Martha falls in love, but the tender sweetness of her first crush ends in cruel humiliation that leaves Martha reeling. The introspective Martha holds a lot inside. But vital and vibrant Godbee is sensitive to her granddaughter’s turbulent feelings and gently encourages her to share what she can—and is willing—about her thoughts, her fears, and her dreams. Martha is also part of a lively and funny family whose relationships are loving and edgy, as parents and siblings so often are. Kevin Henkes’s novel sparkles with strong characterization, fine dialogue, and lovely imagery that help propel a sensitive story about a summer of new awakening. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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