Growing up is hard, and it can also be incredibly isolating for young girls. Whether they’re dealing with issues at school, heartbreak, friendships, bullies, or simply becoming aware of the larger world, it’s a time that can be scary, confusing, and lonely. I know—there are guidance counselors, teachers, parents, grandparents, friends, and other adults to help […]
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?
Multiple award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Kevin Henkes brings his insightful, gentle, real-world insight to middle grade novels, including:
- Billy Miller Makes a Wish
- Bird Lake Moon
- The Birthday Room
- Olive's Ocean
- Protecting Marie
- Sun & Spoon
- Sweeping Up the Heart
- Two Under Par
- Words of Stone
- The Year of Billy Miller
- The Zebra Wall
About the Author
Date of Birth:November 27, 1960
Place of Birth:Racine, Wisconsin
Education:University of Wisconsin, Madison
Read an Excerpt
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.
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
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.