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9 Reviews
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Emerging Readers, January 15, 2010
By 
The Book Nosher (Bainbridge Island, WA USA) - See all my reviews
How would you like it if your parents always did your homework? On first glance, most kids would probably think that would be pretty terrific. But after reading How Oliver Olson Changed the World, they might not think it was such a great idea.

How Oliver Olson Changed the World is a delightful, funny early chapter book that will capture early readers' attention right away. It features Oliver, a timid, overprotected third grader who manages to finally come into his own with the space diorama project. But in the beginning of the book, things are not looking so rosy for Oliver.

Early on we learn that his parents have managed to keep him in a protective cocoon for much of his life, due to starting out as a sickly child. Sleepovers-no! Riding bikes outside of the cul de sac-no! Doing homework on his own-no! With a diorama of the solar system on the horizon, we watch as Oliver's parents start organizing and planning the entire project. It's a pretty hilarious scene which may ring ever-so-true to many children and parents alike. Luckily for Oliver, he gets his first break when Crystal Harding (the most talkative girl in the school) decides that they should do the diorama together, and Oliver's parents are gently shoved aside.

What follows is a delightful story that includes fun facts about the solar system (it addresses Pluto's recent ouster from the planet kingdom in a thought-provoking way), as well as a very realistic depiction of third graders at work and play. Although Oliver and Crystal are the main characters, the other kids in the class are deftly drawn, so you get a sense of them as individuals.

In addition to the diorama, the class is also given an assignment to come up with an idea that would change the world. Of course, we get Oliver's mother's idea:
"Put a sign by the school that says no U-turns....It could save someone's life. It could change the world for one person at least."
And Oliver's idea:
" Schools should make a rule that parents can't help homework. It's like, what's the point of homework, if parents do it?"

There's a neat twist in the end that contributes a lot to the growth of Oliver's character. And grow he does, in a perfect third-grade way.

How Oliver Changed the World is lighthearted, but also poignant. The writing is breezy and very funny. I actually found myself chuckling to myself in quite a few places. I think this would be a great read-aloud book for a first or second grade class, as well as a perfect early chapter book for the emerging reader. Highly recommended.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you wish for, May 26, 2009
I've a little early chapter book radar in my left frontal lobe. Every time I'm handed a pile of books that little radar beeps out a series of signals in a desperate attempt to find that rarest of rare children's titles: the early chapter book that's actually really good. It's a tough game to play. Nine times out of ten an early chapter book for kids wavers between easy readers and Harry Potter-sized tomes that are benevolent at best, dull and preachy at worst. But if you scout abou...more I've a little early chapter book radar in my left frontal lobe. Every time I'm handed a pile of books that little radar beeps out a series of signals in a desperate attempt to find that rarest of rare children's titles: the early chapter book that's actually really good. It's a tough game to play. Nine times out of ten an early chapter book for kids wavers between easy readers and Harry Potter-sized tomes that are benevolent at best, dull and preachy at worst. But if you scout about and read enough of them, once in a while you'll strike a small vein of gold. How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills is better than gold. Better than diamonds and jewels. It's an early chapter book that's thoughtful, original, funny, and wry. And if you ever wanted to teach an eight-year-old about metaphors, that's also worked into the mix, just for kicks.

What Oliver Olson has, kids worldwide would kill for. His parents do his homework for him. You wanna know something though? Come in close here. The fact of the matter? Oliver hates it. He really does. Ever since he was a sickly baby his mom and dad have been Mr. and Mrs. Overprotective. He can't tell them about his planetary diorama without them wanting to make it for him (while refusing to let him leave while they do it). He can't have sleepovers, and when he goes biking it can only be around their little cul-de-sac. So when the chance comes to make a diorama with Crystal from school, his hopes are not high that his parents will let him do it. Nor does he think he has any chance of being allowed to attend his class's sleepover. Fortunately, Crystal is just the kid to get Oliver to stand up for himself and to try new things. And in the end, maybe he hasn't changed THE world, but he's certainly changed his own.

Claudia Mills is no fresh-faced newbie without a title to her name. The woman's been around the block a couple times. She knows her children's books. You know that cute easy reader series about Gus and Grandpa? Yeah. That's her. But somehow (and in the vast a field of children's literature this isn't that surprising) I've never read a Claudia Mills penned title before. Now I have, and I like what I see. Mills has an easygoing style and an engaging series of characters. She's very good at paring down people and situations to their most essential elements. That means that her stories stay interesting, but also manage to convey a large swath of concepts, ideas, people, and plot elements. Writing a good, a really good, early chapter book is very hard to do. Much harder than writing a wordy novel, so credit to Ms. Mills where credit is due.

There's a lot of subtle humor going on with this book too. Stuff that kids will find funny and adults will find funny. Kids will probably find the continual destruction of Oliver's model of Pluto amusing. Adults will enjoy watching Oliver's parents become baffled by the fact that if this model was to scale (as the school instructions insist) it would have to be absolutely gigantic. Actually, kids will probably find that pretty amusing too. And I love that Oliver's dad is completely dedicated to doing his son's diorama, even though he hates doing it. It doesn't even occur to him to make Oliver do it himself, either. The payoff to this comes later when Oliver asks if he can do the diorama with his friend Crystal and his dad's diorama-based disgust allows his son to do something that would normally be verboten.

Speaking of humor, Oliver reminded me a lot of the character of Donuthead from Sue Stauffacher's book of the same name. But while Donuthead's germ and danger phobia is self-induced, Oliver's has been inflicted upon him by his well-meaning if dim parents. Also, Donuthead was primarily about a kid learning to trust the world. Oliver Olson in contrast is about a kid learning where he fits in.

There's a lot of depth to this slim 104-page book. With all the kids protesting the fact that Pluto has been kicked out of the planet club (so to speak) the last thing you'd expect would be Pluto's strongest defender to see the other side and reconsider the position. How many books for kids can you think of where a child character takes a bold stand on a potentially heroic issue, then changes their mind afterwards to consider the counter-arguments? That kind of mature attitude is missing from some teen novels, let alone little books intended for the under-twelve crowd.

Librarians periodically like to do "booktalks" for older kids. They hold up a chapter book and essentially sell it to the kids with a catchy description. How Oliver Olson Changed the World sells itself, though, if you merely walk in front of kids and say, "What would it be like if your parents did all your homework. Wouldn't that be awesome? Oliver Olson's parents do that. And you know what? It's torture!" You'll have `em eating out of your hand and clamoring for this book before you've finished giving your spiel. Oliver Olson is rare fruit. A smart, succinct little creation with a great premise and good writing. I am a fan. Kids will be too. Pluck it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!, March 23, 2011
I've read this book to my 2 2nd graders twice now and they loved it both times. Its funny and touching. It's about Oliver and his classmate making a diorama for a class project about the solar system and the debate over whether Pluto should be included based on recent scientific debate. Some very funny moments arise from this. It also taps into how parents can over protect their children, how this affects them and ultimately how Oliver is able to gain a little independence from them. My kids and I laughed out loud at several parts. As an adult who reads lots to their kids, I found this book entertaining and not at all groan inducing like so many childrens books.I really recommend this one!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, December 6, 2009
Wow! I can't really add much to the previous review. :) I was looking for a book for my very advanced 1st grade readers and can't wait to show them this one. It has plenty of humor and also teaches science. Since Pluto being excluded as a planet is a major theme in the book, it is up-to-date with the planet information. This is a fun, creative book! I hope they make this into a series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it., August 20, 2013
By 
Terry Mc Neal (COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Oliver Olson Changed the World (Paperback)
I used this book as a mentor text and found it was very helpful. I would recommend this book .
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5.0 out of 5 stars My kids loved it, March 20, 2013
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I selected this book because I am a "little" over protective of my kids...I thought it would be a fun book to read at bedtime and I was right. My kids enjoyed the story, and hopefully recognized that I am not nearly as bad as Oliver's parents!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Review by H.T., age 10, March 19, 2013
Oliver Olson is a very good book for the third -grade because in third-grade you learn about space are you can learn that Pluto is not a planet but you can think otherwise like crystal she keep trying to say that Pluto is a planet . the genre is realistic fiction and I recommend this book for third and forth grade because it tell you a lot about space and how Pluto is not a planet . and it is a very good and the big conflict is that he has to make has model so he does it with his parents but they did it all for him so he worked with a girl in his class on his model.

In conclusion I gave it five stars because at first I thought it would be bad but it was good. The reason is that kids idea madder and may be a law oh and before I forget on his model he forgets something read the book and you well find out .
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4.0 out of 5 stars Should be enjoyed, December 7, 2011
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This review is from: How Oliver Olson Changed the World (Paperback)
Got this book for my nephew who is in third grade. The reading level should be par for that age group.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Daughter loved the book., July 14, 2011
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This was on our Battle of the Books list and my daughter loved it. Funny and Fast to read.
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How Oliver Olson Changed the World
How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills (Paperback - October 25, 2011)
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