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Olive's Ocean Paperback – April 26, 2005


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; Reprint edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060535458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060535452
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-As Martha and her family prepare for their annual summer visit to New England, the mother of her deceased classmate comes to their door. Olive Barstow was killed by a car a month earlier, and the woman wants to give Martha a page from her daughter's journal. In this single entry, the 12-year-old learns more about her shy classmate than she ever knew: Olive also wanted to be a writer; she wanted to see the ocean, just as Martha soon will; and she hoped to get to know Martha Boyle as "she is the nicest person in my whole entire class." Martha cannot recall anything specific she ever did to make Olive think this, but she's both touched and awed by their commonalities. She also recognizes that if Olive can die, so can she, so can anybody, a realization later intensified when Martha herself nearly drowns. At the Cape, Martha is again reminded that things in her life are changing. She experiences her first kiss, her first betrayal, and the glimmer of a first real boyfriend, and her relationship with Godbee, her elderly grandmother, allows her to examine her intense feelings, aspirations, concerns, and growing awareness of self and others. Rich characterizations move this compelling novel to its satisfying and emotionally authentic conclusion. Language is carefully formed, sometimes staccato, sometimes eloquent, and always evocative to create an almost breathtaking pace. Though Martha remains the focus, others around her become equally realized, including Olive, to whom Martha ultimately brings the ocean.
Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. More than anything Martha wants to be a writer. The problem is that her father does, too. Is there room for two writers in a single family? This is only one of the many questions that beg to be answered during Martha's twelfth summer. Here are others: Is Godbee, the paternal grandmother whom the family is visiting at Cape Cod, dying? Why is Martha's father so angry? Could Jimmy, the eldest of the five neighboring Manning brothers, be falling in love with her (and vice-versa)? And what does all this have to do with Olive, Martha's mysterious classmate, who died after being hit by a car weeks earlier? Olive, who also wanted to be a writer and visit the ocean, and hoped to be Martha's friend. Like Henkes' Sun and Spoon (1997), this is another lovely, character-driven novel that explores, with rare subtlety and sensitivity, the changes and perplexities that haunt every child's growing-up process. He brings to his story the same bedrock understanding of the emotional realities of childhood that he regularly displays in his paradigmatically perfect picture books. This isn't big and splashy, but its quiet art and intelligence will stick with readers, bringing them comfort and reassurance as changes inevitably visit their own growing-up years. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon in 2005. Kevin Henkes is also the creator of a number of picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly's Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. His most recent mouse character, Penny, was introduced in Penny and Her Song (2012); her story continued in Penny and Her Doll and Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book). Bruce Handy, in a New York Times Book Review piece about A Good Day, wrote, "It should be said: Kevin Henkes is a genius." Kevin Henkes received two Newbery Honors for novels--one for his newest novel for young readers, The Year of Billy Miller, and the other for Olive's Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels Junonia, Bird Lake Moon, The Birthday Room, and Sun & Spoon. He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. You can visit him online at www.kevinhenkes.com.

Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed this book and would like to recommend it to other readers interested in reading it.
Mrs. Crosby
This is a great book, actually, one of the greatest books I've read in a long time (and its quite a respite from all this vampire crap).
Anonymous
I thought that the emotions she was feeling about the other characters in the book were very unrealistic.
Dagny

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Librarian on September 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Olive's Ocean is by Kevin Henkes (of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse fame). When I read the recommendation in Booklist for this Newbery Honor book, I decided to order it for our school's library. Renaissance Learning identified it as a 4.7 reading level. This seemed to be a book that would appeal to our fourth and fifth graders. I thought that Kevin Henkes would create a novel that would appeal as much to our older students as his his picture books appeal to our younger students.

Please be aware that this book has quite a bit of profanity. It also has many sexual references. These two bits of information are not included in the reviews. Olive's Ocean is really more appropriate for students in middle or high school. I would not have purchased it for our elementary students had I been aware of this.
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Johannes on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Olive Barstow has died in a car accident. No one in the neighborhood knew her, and none of the kids at school remember much about her except that she was a little weird. But thoughts of Olive haunt Martha, and she has a hard time thinking of anything but the death of this unknown classmate, a girl her own age with hauntingly similar aspirations.
For young adult readers, this book is a powerful look at the affirmation of life and the mysteries of death. Olive is completely unknown to us, yet thoughts about what her life could have been permeate the thoughts, movements, and actions of our protagonist.
This is a clever look at how the life of another can add dimension to our own existence. Family relationships are written candidly and realistically. It's impossible not to love Martha from the beginning of the story when she wishes a good morning to her two-year-old sister until the end of the book when she resolves to be the person she wants to be.
This book is a far cry from Kevin Henkes picture books about little mice, yet it carries the same beautiful messages about life and family and friends.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By beckyjean VINE VOICE on August 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of Kevin Henkes' picture books, I was eager to read this novel. It didn't disappoint. The sensitivity that peeks out from behind the whimsy in Henkes' picture books is given a chance to shine in Olive's Ocean.
Just before leaving on her family's annual summer trip to Cape Cod, 12-year-old Martha receives a strange gift -- a page from the journal of a dead classmate she hardly knew. Upon reading the dead girl's words, Martha becomes haunted by the knowledge that she and this girl were so much alike, they could have been friends. She's determined to do right by Olive, who was friendless in life, and she's determined to find herself in the process as well.
Martha achieves both goals, not without a few stumbles and setbacks along the way. Martha has a lot to think about -- boys, her aging grandmother, her father's obvious unhappiness with his chosen occupation (writing) and her excitement and uncertainty over her own chosen occupation (writing!).
There is a certain epiphany about three-quarters of the way through the book that I feel comes too fast and too easily, but it's forgiveable because the rest of the book rings so true.
This book reminded me of a sort of "beginner" version of one of my favorite books in the world -- "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engel. "Olive's Ocean" is great for 10-year-olds and maybe even some eight-year-olds, whereas I'd give "A Ring of Endless Light" to kids ages 12 and up, and maybe a few astute 10-year-olds.
It's wonderful to see another side of Kevin Henkes. There was already no doubt that he and his colorful books are here to stay, but this piece in a more muted palette is beautiful as well.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Charla F. White on February 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Olive's Ocean" is a story of self -discovery and personal changes wrought by tragedy. The main character, twelve-year-old Martha Boyle, begins her journey when her classmate Olive dies suddenly as the result of a bicycle accident. Until Olive's mother shows up at Martha's doorstep with Olive's journal page, Martha doesn't realize what an impact she had on her classmate's short, lonely life. This realization makes Martha think about her past, present, and most importantly, her future. During summer vacation at her Grandmother's ocean-side home, Martha learns a lot about life, death, love, and family.
This book is beautifully written in a very conversational style that makes the reader feel like he or she is seeing the world through the eyes of a twelve-year old girl. The pages are full of vivid images that will stay with you long after reading the book. As the story unfolds there are times of great joy, sadness, and confusion. This book will definitely cause self-reflection. My only caution about sharing this book with the recommended age level of 9-12 year olds is that it contains some curse words and a few crude remarks that I felt were inappropriate for elementary readers. However, overall "Olive's Ocean" is well worth reading and would be nice for parents to share with their preteen children.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Olive's Ocean

By Kevin Henkes

"Olive Barstow was dead. She had been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bike weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew."

Martha Boyle ends her school year in a disturbing way. After discovering her daughter Olive's diary, Olive's mother finds an entry that mentions Martha. Martha receives this diary entry and is quite surprised. Martha wasn't even Olive's friend. When arriving home Martha rushes to her room to read it. The diary entry tells about Olive's hopes including wanting to become Martha's friend, that "[Martha] is the nicest person in my whole entire class"

Martha is going to the beach that summer to visit her grandmother Godbee. Her grandmother lives on the beachfront. Martha learns, from the entry that Olive wished to but never lived by the ocean. This makes things much worse for Martha.

As the story unfolds, Martha's word is turned upside-down. Always haunted by Olive, she starts to like a person she used to hate and is faced with the troubling fact that Godbee my soon die.

Henkes writes this story beautifully, making serious concepts seem friendly to children. The second you end it you will you will turn back to the first chapter for more.
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