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Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean

4.5 111
by Kevin Henkes

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Olive Barstow was in Martha Boyle's class until she was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicycle. Martha didn't know Olive -- not really. But after Olive's mother gives her a section from Olive's journal, Martha knows they could have been, would have been friends. And now Martha and her family are going to visit Godbee, Martha's grandmother, on Cape Cod


Olive Barstow was in Martha Boyle's class until she was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicycle. Martha didn't know Olive -- not really. But after Olive's mother gives her a section from Olive's journal, Martha knows they could have been, would have been friends. And now Martha and her family are going to visit Godbee, Martha's grandmother, on Cape Cod for the rest of the summer -- as they do every year. The Boyles descent of Godbee's small house in a flurry of exuberance, mini-crises, diapers, and humor all mixed together. The ocean is still there. And the five Manning boys still live nearby. There is Jimmy Manning with his ever-present video camera. Jimmy Manning, who gives Martha her first kiss. And Tate, who seems to follow Martha with his eyes. And then there is Olive, who had always wanted to see the ocean, and who now haunts Martha's thoughts and dreams.

Editorial Reviews

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“Henkes’s story is subtle and satisfyingly untidy. Grabs you right from the start.”
Florida Times-Union
“An eloquent journey into adolescence.”
Seattle Times
“Lyrically written.”
Family Fun Magazine
“The ever versatile Kevin Henkes dazzles with this spare yet profoundly touching coming-of-age novel.”
Daily Item
“With beautifully defined characters, events, and emotions that will tug at your heart, this novel is flawless.”
Publishers Weekly
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.
Children's Literature
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.,
— Claire Rosser
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.56(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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.

Meet the Author

Kevin Henkes is the award-winning creator of many books for children, including the Caldecott Medal Book Kitten’s First Full Moon, the Caldecott and Geisel Honor Book Waiting, the Newbery Honor Books The Year of Billy Miller and Olive’s Ocean, and several bestselling books about mice, including Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Chrysanthemum.


Brief Biography

Madison, Wisconsin
Date of Birth:
November 27, 1960
Place of Birth:
Racine, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Olive's Ocean 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 111 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 More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad but great book!!! ENJOY:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lobe it
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