Ola's Wake

Ola's Wake

5.0 1
by B.J. J. Stone

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A tender novel about a young girl's growing awareness and acceptance of death, after the loss of her great-grandmother.

"I wished I could talk to Ola and get to know her. There she was, all laid out in her pretty pink bed, looking like she was asleep in her best clothes."

When ten-year-old Josie's Great Granny Ola passes away, Josie and her mom travel


A tender novel about a young girl's growing awareness and acceptance of death, after the loss of her great-grandmother.

"I wished I could talk to Ola and get to know her. There she was, all laid out in her pretty pink bed, looking like she was asleep in her best clothes."

When ten-year-old Josie's Great Granny Ola passes away, Josie and her mom travel from Texas to the Missouri Ozarks to pay their respects. But Josie wishes she didn't have to go—she'd never even met Ola, and she doesn't know how to feel or what to expect.

At the wake, friends and family swap colorful tales about Ola—like the time she lost her berries to a bear, or the way she played her juice harp at the county fair. And of course, there were her famous fried apple pies. Over the next few days, Josie begins to feel special when she realizes that even though she never knew Great Granny Ola when she was alive, they share a lot in common—their stubbornness, their creativity, and most of all, their fiery spirit.

This comforting and sensitive novel explores death in all its complexities, and celebrates the memories, storytelling, and family connections that unite young and old.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"If my great-grandmother Ola hadn't died, I might never have known her," begins 10-year-old Josie in this sketchy novel about her pilgrimage into the Ozarks to attend Ola's memorial service. During Josie's journey, Stone (Girl on the Bluff) outlines the sisterly relationship between Josie and Ginny, her single mom, and upon their arrival, the jealousy Josie feels toward Ola's neighbor, Sara, a girl her age. Sara's statement that "Miss Ola was my best friend" piques Josie's desire to know Granny Ola even better than Sara did. Granny Ola's feisty character unfolds through stories told by her mountain neighbors and Ginny, and through the belongings strewn around Ola's rustic cabin. Oddly, aside from a passing reference to the year (1967) and a couple of outdoor berry-picking scenes, few details offer a sense of time or place. Josie gets too sick to attend the funeral, and readers may find her feverish out-of-body experience confusing (Josie meets up with the spectral Granny Ola, and they observe the memorial service together). The absent Ola proves more developed than Josie, who serves primarily as a way into the tale; this makes the novel's major theme--the similarities between Josie and Granny Ola--difficult to appreciate. Ages 9-12. (June) CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN Carol Lynch Williams. Putnam, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 0-399-23436-5 ~ What do the grandchildren of a famous born-again preacher, two girls with a movie star mother, and a smitten gas station attendant have in common? They all live in Heaven, Fla. (pop. 6; or 10, when the movie star and her household move in). There's 12-year-old Honey, who still hasn't found the courage to "get saved," despite her religious upbringing; her restless older brother, Willie-Bill; and neighbor Taylor Hiatt, who tries doggedly to win Honey's heart. Then there are the newcomers: wealthy, glamorous Miriam Season and her daughters, Christmas and Easter. As the Seasons settle into their mansion, Honey becomes fast friends with lonely, adventurous Christmas--and Willie-Bill takes up with rebellious Easter, alcoholic despite a stint at the Betty Ford Center. Williams (The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson) uses broad, bright strokes to paint the external traits of her motley cast of teenage characters. Her expression of their inner qualities is far less vivid, however. The plot, revolving choppily around the adventures of Honey and Christmas, is initially playful in tone, but grows increasingly dark as the focus shifts from the girls' friendship to the stir created by their siblings. As the less developed characters--mostly Easter and Willie-Bill, but also Taylor--come in for a greater share of the action, the narrative loses much of its flavor and credibility. Ages 10-14. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
Probably the reason most publishers don't like first person child narrators is the difficulty in telling a complete story without violating the young narrator's voice. That's just the first problem in Ola's Wake, a story about ten-year-old Josie's coming to know Great Granny Ola only after Ola has died. Throughout Josie asks her Mother, Ginny, the penetrating questions of an adult. They are meant to characterize Josie as smart and observant, but here only seem anachronistic, as does Author Stone's putting grownup words in a child's mouth—Josie describes herself as lying "sprawled sketching scenes for [Ginny's] poems." There's a subplot involving a girl Josie's age, Sara, whose relationship with the living Ola makes Josie jealous. In the end, Josie's glad they drove all the way from Texas to the Missouri Ozarks for the funeral, glad to have gotten to "know" her Great Granny, if only too late. The book's purpose makes it a candidate for high recommendation, but a good children's book needs a heroine of passion and purpose, not one dragged reluctantly to a funeral. 2000, Henry Holt and Company, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Nancy Tilly
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Josie, 10, had never met her great-grandmother, so when her mother insists that they drive up to the Missouri Ozarks for Ola's funeral, she doesn't want to go. Once there, however, Josie hears all of the stories about her great-grandmother's independence and resourcefulness, and she begins to feel envious of the people who knew and loved her. The more she hears, the more she realizes all of the things she has in common with Granny Ola and begins to take pride in her newfound heritage. Stone does an excellent job of following Josie's emotions as she struggles to understand how she fits within her mother's family. While the topic may be a hard sell, the book is uplifting and positive in its treatment of death and the importance of family. This compelling story peopled with believable, sympathetic characters is bound to strike a chord with readers, particularly those who have been in this situation.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Inspired by girlhood vacations in the Ozarks and by her own mother, Stone (Girl on the Bluff, not reviewed) has created a quiet novel about ten-year-old Josie and her single mother Ginny, who travel from their home in Texas to Missouri to attend the funeral of Josie's great-grandmother, Ola. Josie doesn't know what to expect of a funeral, particularly that of a relative whom she never knew. But as she listens to stories about Ola and her exploits recounted by the woman's devoted friends, relatives, and neighbors, Ola's wake proves to be an awakening for Josie. She learns so much about her ancestor that she begins to feel as if she knew her for years, and she comes to appreciate the heritage of which she had previously been unaware. Best of all, Josie learns that, much to her mother's delight, she resembles spunky, colorful, and life-loving Ola in many ways. In the process Josie grows close to her mother and also makes a new friends, Sara, a girl her own age, who was a devoted friend to Ola. In a dream scene, Josie accompanies her great-grandmother on a berry- and mushroom-picking expedition and the two even attend the funeral together. It will be an awakening for young readers to discover that death need not be regarded only as a somber affair. The novel will help readers recognize that it is not disrespectful to feel joyous even at a mournful time, for a life well lived is a life worthy of celebration. Comforting for children who have experienced the passing of a loved one. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.61(h) x 0.29(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

BJ Stone is the author of Girl on the Bluff. A former children's reading specialist and teacher, Ms. Stone lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her family.

Susan Havice illustrated I'm Sorry, Almira Ann by Jane Kurtz. She lives in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.

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Ola's Wake 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My grandson loves 'Ola's Wake'! He chuckles as he reads of adventures in the Ozarks. He meets 10-year-old Josie, who says, 'If my great-grandmother Ola hadn't died, I might never have known her.' This novel helps boys and girls deal with questions about death and life. The story bridges generations as Josie discovers Ola's love for the simple life in a cabin in the woods. This is a book to share with Grandpa.