A journal entry of a classmate killed in an accident sends 12-year-old Martha on an unintended pilgrimage. In our Best Books citation, PW wrote, "Readers witness Martha's maturation as she appreciates life anew and finds a way to give something back to Olive." Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Martha is bothered by the death of a girl, Olive, whom she barely knew. In this story that takes place in about a week, she manages to remember Olive in a way that will let her go on. Martha is also betrayed by a boy into a first kiss, which she parlays into even more strength. Martha is so memorable, as are the other characters in the story—Henkes is a master at creating people we know engaged in the business of growing up, in all the shaggy wonder that implies. I think middle school girls will like not being talked down to in Olive's Ocean. They will like the way Martha begins to see boys and first loves, how she deals with the realization that her grandmother is probably sicker than she is letting on, how she observes the way adults and parents lose their tempers and patch things up, and the way she begins to figure what life might be all about—to her. A superior growing up/coming-of-age story. 2003, Greenwillow, <%ISBN%>0060535431
Martha Boyle is one of the memorable 12-year-old girls of fiction, smart, confused, compassionate. I like the fact that she has been created by a male author, who manages to combine poetic images with realistic down-to-earth growing pains. Most of the story takes place within a two-week period when Martha and her family are vacationing on the New England coast at their grandmother's home. Martha has been seared by the accidental death of a classmate, Olive, who no one really liked much. Olive's mother delivers a paper written by Olive to Martha in which Olive wrote that Martha was someone she hoped could be her friend, that Olive wanted to be a writer, that she wanted to see the ocean. So as Martha goes off for the two weeks, she tries to become the writer Olive now has no chance of being and she tries to appreciate the ocean that Olive no longer will be able to see. Martha is close to her elderly grandmother, who encourages her writing. Other important characters are Martha's little toddler sister, her parents, and her older brother. At the beach, a boy next door takes an interest in Martha, who experiences the first pangs of attraction and then humiliation when she finds out the boy is just using her in his filmmaking efforts—interested in her more as a subject for his film than for the person she is. Fortunately, the boy has a brother who restores Martha's faith in herself. Here is a sample passage: "Martha admired her brother, and liked and loved him, too, even as she sometimes was offended by him. He was sarcastic and funny and smart and oddly childlike, and could be counted on to be brutally honest concerning matters of the greatest importance. 'You've got a zit on the back of yourneck that's ready to explode,' he'd once told her. 'Don't wear those shoes in public,' he'd said another time, 'unless you want to look like a complete dork.'" The book is divided into chapters of various lengths that are frequently like prose poems, some a few sentences, some several paragraphs, others four or five pages long, each with the sort of title one might expect in a book of poetry. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 217p.,
School Library Journal
Gr 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.
On her family's Cape Cod vacation, Martha is haunted by a journal entry left by a dead classmate. Olive, an unremarkable loner, hoped to have Martha ("the nicest girl in the class") as a friend. This summer 12-year-old Martha is noticing her grandmother's aging, experiencing adolescent alienation from her affectionate family, and feeling the self-consciousness of yearning for her neighbor Jimmy. Jimmy, 14 and an aspiring filmmaker, surprises Martha with his attentions, inquires whether she has ever been kissed, and asks to film her for his video. Their kiss captured on film, as it turns out, is the result of a wager. Well-plotted, the working out of Martha's feelings of humiliation, her renewed connection to family, and her final gesture towards the dead Olive are effected with originality and grace. Henkes's characters never lack for the inner resilience that comes from a grounding in the ultimate decency of family. Characters and setting are painted in with the deft strokes of an experienced artist. Few girls will fail to recognize themselves in Martha. (Fiction. 10-13)
“An eloquent journey into adolescence.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“Henkes’s story is subtle and satisfyingly untidy. Grabs you right from the start.”
Family Fun Magazine
“The ever versatile Kevin Henkes dazzles with this spare yet profoundly touching coming-of-age novel.”
“With beautifully defined characters, events, and emotions that will tug at your heart, this novel is flawless.”
Read an Excerpt Olive's Ocean
By Kevin Henkes Greenwillow Books
Copyright © 2003 Kevin Henkes
All right reserved.
"Are you Martha Boyle?"
"You don't know me," said the woman at the door. "Olive Barstow was my daughter. I was her mother."
Martha heard herself gasp. A small, barely audible gasp.
"I don't know how well you knew Olive," said the woman. "She was so shy." The woman reached into the pocket of the odd smock she was wearing and retrieved a folded piece of paper. "But I found this in her journal, and I think she'd want you to have it."
The rusted screen that separated them gave the woman a gauzy appearance. Martha cracked open the door to receive the pink rectangle.
"That's all," the woman said, already stepping oV the stoop. "And thank you. Thank you, Martha Boyle."
The woman mounted a very old bicycle and pedaled away, her long, sleek braid hanging behind her like a tail.
Breathing deeply to quiet her heart, Martha remained by the door thinking about Olive Barstow, unable for the moment to unfold the paper and read it.
Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle. Weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew.
A sad image of Olive rose in Martha's mind: a quiet, unremarkable girl, a loner withaverted eyes, clinging to the lockers when walking down the hallways at school.
The image that Xashed next was imagined and worse: Olive Xying through the air, after impact, like a bird, then scraping along the pavement and lying in a heap at the curbside, never to move again.
Excerpted from Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Henkes. Excerpted by permission.
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