I chose this week’s book based on my daughter’s recommendation. When she was younger, I made it a practice to read the same books she did so we could discuss them, which is why I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this book before. Somehow, this one slipped by me. According to my daughter, she read it in elementary school and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This was enough to make me curious about the book.

Book Details

Olive's Ocean

Title:  Olive’s Ocean
Author:  Kevin Henkes
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books; Reprint edition (April 26, 2005)

Pages:  224
Available Editions:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback | Audiobook | Audio CD

Age:  8-12
Grade:  3-7
Lexile Measure:  680

Newbery Honor

Summary:  Sometimes life can change in an instant.

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends, but they weren’t. Weeks after a tragic accident, all that is left are eerie connections between two girls, former classmates who both kept the same secret without knowing it. Now, even while on vacation at the ocean, Martha can’t stop thinking about Olive. Things only get more complicated when Martha begins to like Jimmy Manning, a neighborhood boy she used to despise. What is going on? Can life for Martha be the same ever again? [Source: Amazon]

How it Begins:

The story begins rather bleakly. Martha Boyle answers the door to her home to find a classmate’s mother on the front porch. An audible gasps escapes Martha. The strangeness of the situation struck her as the two girls were not close, nor friends. Odder yet, the girl had died while out riding her bike only weeks before. So what did her mother want with her?

The dead girl’s mother explains that she found a page in her daughter’s journal she thought her daughter, Olive, would want Martha to have. After delivering the note, she simply states, “And thank you. Thank you, Martha Boyle.” She then abruptly leaves a stunned and speechless Martha clinging to the folded note.

Book Quotes

“But her sadness could not be contained, and so she cried and cried.”

“There were no tears left in her, and she figured the telltale signs of crying would have disappeared by the time she got to her grandmother’s house.”

How many times as a child did we think the world would end over an injustice we suffered? Growing up can be especially difficult in our pre-teen and teen years. A moment that as an adult we can shake our head and smile back upon, seemed insurmountable at the time.

What I Enjoyed About This Book

  • It is my belief that children will easily relate and form an affinity with the main character.

  • Although a bleak beginning, there is a story and lesson to be learned within these pages.

  • Martha realizes too late the promise of a friendship that may have been, but still tries to reach out. This is an admirable quality that shows compassion.

  • A pretty face (or should I say a handsome one?) does not necessarily equal a kind heart. Martha learns this lesson too late.

In Summary

This is a story that anyone can appreciate young or old. Young readers will relate to what Martha is going through and the feelings she is experiencing while older readers will appreciate and reminisce on days gone by. There are genuine feelings of both angst, and ultimate triumph. I love a book that can encompass a multitude of emotion. Olive’s Ocean accomplishes that goal. It is a worthy read for your middle grade child or student.

I always encourage parents to read the same books as their child. If this isn’t a practice you’ve begun, this is a great starter book! You’ll be surprised at the connection you’ll make with your child while discussing the characters, plot, and emotions. It will also give you an insight on what they go through in their own life.

Warm regards,

K. Lamb