Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean

by Kevin Henkes


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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 the 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 neighbor boy she used to despise. What is going on? Can life for Martha be the same ever again?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060535452
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/26/2005
Series: HarperClassics
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 110,207
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.56(d)
Lexile: 680L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kevin Henkes is an award-winning author and illustrator of many books for children of all ages. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Waiting and Owen; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Waiting and Penny and Her Marble. His other books include Egg, Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. www.kevinhenkes.com


Madison, Wisconsin

Date of Birth:

November 27, 1960

Place of Birth:

Racine, Wisconsin


University of Wisconsin, Madison

Read an Excerpt

Olive's Ocean

By Kevin Henkes Greenwillow Books

Copyright © 2003 Kevin Henkes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060535445

Chapter One

A Beginning

"Are you Martha Boyle?"

Martha nodded.

"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.

Chapter Two

An End

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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Olive's Ocean

By Kevin Henkes

About the Book: Olive Barstow had been in Martha Boyle's class…until she was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicycle. Then Martha finds out that Olive, a girl she never really knew, wrote in her journal about wanting to be friends with Martha, and wanting to be a writer. Martha can't quit thinking about Olive, even when she goes with her family on vacation to the ocean, to stay with her grandmother. In the midst of experiencing first love, loneliness, embarrassment, and fears of her beloved grandmother growing old, Martha allows Olive's death to teach her lessons about living.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When Olive's mother gave Martha Olive's journal entry, Martha is startled by the coincidences in the two girls' lives. What are those coincidences, and how do they affect Martha?
  2. Godbee plays an important role in Martha's life, and Martha feels safe with her, able to tell her secrets she would never tell anyone else. For example, "I want to be a writer" (pg. 56); and "I think I like Jimmy Manning" (pg. 83). What character traits does Godbee possess that enabled Martha to be so honest with her?
  3. On page 81, Godbee tells Martha about a short story she once wrote, about a girl who moved from the ocean to a new home far inland. Does the story of the girl give an insight into Godbee herself, as she thinks about her own mortality?
  4. On pages 86-87, Martha thinks about her most embarrassing moment. But later, when she discovers that Jimmy made a bet that he could get her to kiss him on video, she ismortified. Which do you think is worse? Why?
  5. After the incident with the videotape, Martha "became intensely aware of her separateness to the whole world" (p. 132). If she is separate, why is she so distraught over Jimmy's betrayal? Why do you think she is so angry with Vince, who had very little to do with Jimmy's plan to kiss her on tape?
  6. Martha decides that she will "pretend the kiss and the tape were meaningless…Like Olive, she would quietly proceed with her life" (p. 133). Can she do this? How does she decide to handle the situation?
  7. After Martha falls into the ocean and almost drowns, she begins to understand that the world does not revolve around her and that it would continue to exist without her (p. 165). How does this affect the decisions she makes and the rest of her vacation at Godbee's house?
  8. Mr. Henkes uses foreshadowing throughout the book to build tension. When Tate writes Martha a note that reads, "I think I know what to do" (p. 172), readers are left anxiously waiting to find out what Tate will do. Do you think Tate came up with a good plan? Do you think Martha feels better afterwards? Why?
  9. Mr. Henkes uses Martha's dream (p. 185) and her grandmother's dream (pp. 150-151) to move the story forward. How do these dreams relate to their lives? What effect do the dreams have on the decisions they make?
  10. When Martha gets the videotape from Tate, she realizes that "what was inside her head and heart made her feel as thought there was no one else in the whole world she would rather be" (pp. 199-200). Why is she so happy about who she is?
  11. After returning home, Martha tries to take Olive's ocean to her mother. As she sits on Olive's front porch, Martha thinks, "If I met you now, I would be your friend, Olive" (p. 216). What events in Martha's life brought her to that discovery? Why did Martha personally bring Olive's Ocean to her home?
  12. Olive wanted to be Martha's friend but never told her. When Olive died, though, Martha became, in many ways, a close friend. Martha's actions are the actions taken by a true friend. Discuss the irony of this situation.
  13. Early in the book, Martha writes Olive's name on the curb at the site of her accident (p. 15). At the end, Martha writes her name in ocean water on the steps of Olive's home (p. 216). How are the two instances different? Does Martha feel differently about Olive? About life?

About the Author: Kevin Henkes became an author-illustrator at the age of nineteen. He flew from his home in Racine, Wisconsin, to New York City with his portfolio, hoping to find a publisher. Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow Books made his dream come true, and his first picture book All Alone, was published in 1981. Since then Kevin Henkes has published twenty-five picture books and eight novels for older readers. When asked, he says, "I never thought I'd be lucky enough to be a real author and illustrator. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, the ABBY Award Winner Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, and the New York Times #1 Bestseller Wemberly Worried.

The seed for Kevin Henkes's books always begins with the character, and he wants his characters to be believable. When asked about writing a novel, Kevin says "I can delve much deeper into a character's psyche…I can deal with subject matter that is more complex than the subject matter of my picture books. But because I'm a visual person, I do have very strong images in my head as I work. I love describing my characters and their environments. Setting a scene -- providing proper lighting, the colors and textures of things, sounds -- is one of my favorite things about writing a novel."

Reading Group Guide by Susan Geye, Library Media Specialist, Crowley, Texas.

Customer Reviews

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Olive's Ocean 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 142 reviews.
gymnast More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and now it is one of my new favorites! even though you never get to talk to olive, it fells like you know her as much as the main charecter, martha. it is a sweet book and i think it should be made into a movie!
Kayla_V_WV More than 1 year ago
Olive's Ocean is a realistic fiction book. It is written by the author, Kevin Henkes. This book is a great book. I hope you will learn enough so that u will want to read it. Olive's Ocean tells the story of a 13 year old girl named, Martha Boyle. Martha is struggling with the fact that a girl she never really knew but saw at school, was riding her bike when a car hit her and killed her on Monroe Street. The girls name was Olive Barstow. Things really took a turn when Martha and her family went on vacation at the ocean. Then Martha starts to like Jimmy Manning, a neighbor boy she used to despise. Martha starts to get mixed feelings but, the whole time she can't stop thinking about Olive Barstow. While at the beach to visit her aunt and uncle, Martha hangs out at the Manning's house a lot and gets to know Jimmy and Tate Manning. Martha's family is very loving at all times. During these tough and confusing times Martha, gets the time to find her true self. Kevin Henkes does a fantastic job in writing this book. Henkes involves all the characters well. Henkes also does a great job of describing the characters personality. I have and will continue to tell everyone about this book because if anyone is looking for a good book to read they should try Olive's Ocean.
nayeoneunicepark More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I'm 11years old. I think kids in 4th or 5th grade will love it. It really shows how a girl will feel with all going on in her life. Even some of the feelings were same as how i would've felt. Again, i thought this book was great!!!! You must read it!!!i also really hope that we can read this book at school with my friends. it makes you think a lot! A MUST READ IS RIGHT HERE!!!
mhlover More than 1 year ago
this book inspired me in soooooooooooo many ways
Guest More than 1 year ago
Olive's Ocean is written by Kevin Henkes and I rated it three stars. This is a book about a girl named Martha Boyle and she has toubles within her when a girl, named Olive, dies in a car accident while riding her bike. Olive's mother gives Martha a note that Olive had written saying that she wanted to be friends with her. Martha is shocked because she has never talked to this girl Olive. Olive had no friends and never talked much at all. Martha then realizes how many things they had in common. Martha now wishes she got to know Olive more, so that they could have been friends earlier. Included in the letter was also that Olive wishes she could see the ocean one day. Martha and her family then go on their trip to Martha's grandmohter's house down near the sea. While there Martha encounters many things. She wants to become a writer, she has her first kiss, and she becomes closer than ever to her grandmother. Martha in the end of the book ends up liking someone else rather than the boy who kissed her. This book is very like modern familys today as in how brothers and sisters talk to eachother and have conflicts between eachother like Martha has with her brother, Vince. I rated this book three stars because this was a pretty good book. I don't really like this style of writing but I really enjoyed this book. So if you are a person who really likes this style of writing, you should read this book.
anna_love More than 1 year ago
Its a really great book and I can see why Kevin Henkes won the medal-thingie on the front of the book. All the characters are believeable, and you can make them out in your mind (even Olive Barthstrow getting hit by a car) by all the detail. Although, even though the theme is stated right on the backcover, it was kinda hard to figure out the theme of Olive's Ocean. I mean, you can see why they called it this if you read the whole book, but you have to really think, to figure out the theme.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. I had a hard time putting this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book, i thought that the plot was very suspenseful, i definitely recommend this book.
IGB More than 1 year ago
I loved Olive¿s Ocean. I thought it was a very good book. It is one of my favorite books. It is the best book in the world. I would recommend this book to girls who are in middle school. I recommend this to them because I think it is a very appropriate book for people that age. I liked it because it was a very detailed book and it was descriptive witch made it very interesting. Also it kind of had a romantic thing going on in the middleish, end part of the book. It was really good. Also the book was kind of sad because of what happened to Olive. It made me upset when she told, what had happened to Olive. I felt bad for Martha because she was never friends with Olive, but she could not stop thinking about Olive. But still overall it was very go even if it was sad. I think that is what made the book so much better is because; it had so many different things in it. Such as romance, sympathy, and humor. I would defiantly read this book it is amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book lots of nice detail the characters are alsorts of kinds of different ways too describe them
booklover8 More than 1 year ago
i had to choose a book for school, and said why not choose this? i LOVE it! The day i bought it is the day a finished it! i absolutely LOVE the cover and how it feels. i recommend you buy it.
carlottacc More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my grandson to read as an assigned summer reading book. He did not think he was going to like it from the title. He thought it would be about dumb girl stuff. He read it in a very short span of time during the last few weeks of summer vacation and said he really liked it. From what I heard from him, it was a really good book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was good. Also you would love it if you love oceans. This book is a sad book but with a romantic twist at the end. Kevin Henkes really makes you feel like you were there and experiencing it. I would recommend it to everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
There were some funny parts about a baby throwing a fit, but really it wasn't a funny story. It was a ho hum story with a disappointing ending. Some girls may identify with Martha's negative first kiss experience, but I don't think sludging through the rest of the book is worth the time. Thank goodness it was a short book. Now I can move on to something more interesting.
Anonymous 11 months ago
I love how there all so many questions to ask and you have answers for all of them! I just love how Tate came out to Martha about his feelings, but what Jimmy did wasn’t that cool to me. That was selfish, it’s like your tricking someone to falling in love with you but don’t like them at all and your brother is saying his real feelings for her. I love this wonderful book! I hope you make more just like this but not exactly like the same thing with the same idea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am the medicine cat and am looking for an apprentice.
leepam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!! It was so touching. I loved the description of the smells of Godbee¿s house as she was leaving to go home. I can remember how much I loved the way my grandmother¿s house smelled. Each time I would leave her house, I would walk through and breathe in deep so that I wouldn¿t lose the smell. Although I really enjoyed this book, I would not read it to my students because of some of the language that Vince used. Olive¿s Ocean is about a twelve year old girl, Martha, whose life is touched by a girl that she barely knew. Olive, a classmate of Martha, had died a couple weeks before; she had been hit by a car while riding her bicycle. As the story begins, Olive¿s mother brings an entry of her daughter¿s journal to Martha. The entry states some of her dreams and mentions that she wants to be friends with Martha because she was so nice to her. Martha feels very guilty because she barely even spoke to Olive. As Martha is packing to go on vacation to see her grandmother, Godbee, she cannot stop thinking about Olive. When the Boyle family gets to Godbee¿s house, Vince, her older brother, runs off to his friends¿ house (The Mannings), so Martha is able to spend time with her grandmother. They agree to share one secret that no one else knows to each other each day they are there. While on vacation, Martha starts to like Jimmy Manning and she gets her first kiss. She is so excited until she learns that she was just part of a bet; she is heartbroken and embarrassed. Tate, Jimmy¿s younger brother who really does like Martha, understands her humiliation and steals Jimmy¿s video tape that he recorded the kiss on and gives it to her so that she can destroy it. While she is on vacation, Martha learns many things about herself and her grandmother and begins to develop a deeper understanding for her family. One of the things that Olive said in her journal entry that she wanted to do one day was go to the ocean. While on vacation, Martha puts ocean water in a baby jar and brings the ocean home to Olive¿s mother. When she gets home from vacation she learns that Olive¿s mother has moved. Martha takes the water and writes Olive¿s name on the front steps of her house where she always sat and wrote before she died. Martha finally forgave herself for not being a friend to Olive and finally learns how lucky she is to have her family.
yorkie1887 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A heart touching novel about life.
Ctorm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
5Q 5PA beautiful and poetic story of a 12 year old grappling with the death of a schoolmate during a summer at her grandmothers seaside home. Short paragraphs and lovely bursts of introspective musings will captivate readers, especially those who appreciate strong characters.
ginarentz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a book this fast in years! This is the kind of book that creates "young magic" that we all have had at some point in our lives. The author of this book Kevin Henkes, surely has retained that magical imagination that is found in Olive's Ocean via Martha Boyle and her family summer vacation at Godbeys coastal home. I enjoy reading again!
RaKr625 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this story because Olive is very smart and down to earth. It's a coming of age book that can relate to girls everywhere.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Olive's Ocean is a 2004 Newbery Honor award winning book.While many of the Newbery Medal and Honor books are insightful, this one zipped right on past, leaving me with a hollow feeling. The story is somewhat typical of a YA book wherein the main character has a coming of age experience that changes them, however, the characters in this book seem one dimensional and limp like.Martha is 12 years old when she learns that her classmate Olive died in a bike accident leaving behind a journal wherein she mentions that while other classmates paid no attention to her, Martha was kind.Martha and her family vacation at the cottage of her grandmother in New England. During this particular vacation, Martha is drawn to a young man who in turn leads her on and embarrasses her.Martha has a wonderful relationship with her grandmother and as they spend time together, the beauty of the elder teaching the younger is a theme of the story.All the events listed above were portrayed in a cookie-cutter fashion wherein the events are noted, stamped out and then moved along -- no sugar on the cookies, no fancy shape-- just the process of robotically going through the motion of doing a job.Not recommended.
NicolesBubble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Olive¿s Ocean is about a girl named Martha that visits her grandma, Godbee in California. Right before Martha lives home she got a letter in the mail from a fellow school mate Olive's mother telling her that Olive has died. Martha didn't really even know Olive. During her summer at Godbee, Martha learns so much more than she could have ever imagined. Martha soon develops a crush on one of neighbor boys while at her grandmother¿s. Martha get revenge on a crush and before Martha leaves she gets a bottle and fills it with the ocean to give to Olive's mom. It said in the letter that Olive's mother had given her that she had always wanted to go to the ocean. This would be "Olives Ocean." This story was great because it made me feel like I was watching a movie. I was able to imagine every scene and it brought many emotions to mind. I never thought that I would enjoy a story like this, but as I began to read I couldn¿t stop. This is a great story to have a discussion session over.This is a story that could help younger girls deal with appreciation, crushing on boys and learning something new about growing up.
Sandra305 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a bittersweet novel with very real characters. I particularly loved Martha's relationship with her grandmother, but I thought all the characters and their relationships were very realistic. There are way too many "Olives" in the world and hopefully young readers will respond with more sensitivity to the "outsiders" in their own social milieu after reading this book. The book could facilitate some great classroom discussions in several areas and on several levels.
BiZMamma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book on my ipod, and I chose it because (a) I had wanted to read it before, and (b) I have enjoyed this narrator's work before (Blair Brown). The story begins when 12 year old Martha learns that a classmate (Olive) has been killed while riding her bicycle. Olive appeared to have very few good friends, although Martha seemed to be unsure why. She spoke with Olive occasionally in school, but is surprised when Olive's mother brings Martha some of Olive's writing. Martha's family spends the summer at her grandmother's house on the beach in New England, where Martha continues to wonder about Olive as well as her own destiny. I thought the story was well-written (and narrated), but it is not an on-the-edge-of-your-seat page-turner by any means.