Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Olive’s Ocean

Olive’s Ocean

Kevin Henkes
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2003   ISBN: 978-0060535438

Martha never really knew Olive Barstow and she is shocked when Olive’s mother arrives at the house to give Martha a journal entry which Olive wrote before she was killed by a car. In it Olive mentions that she hopes to make friends with Martha and she thinks Martha is the “nicest person” in their class. Martha can’t help feeling sad that she never the chance or took the time to get to know shy Olive.

Even after she and her family go to her grandmother’s house at the beach Martha cannot rid herself of Olive’s memory. Nor can she really share how she feels with anyone in her family. Though she does share other confidences with her grandmother, Godbee, whom Martha loves and admires a great deal. She tells Godbee for example that she rather likes Jimmy Manning, a boy whom until then was more of an annoyance than anything else. Now Jimmy seems to be interested her and she is sure that she has fallen in love with him.

She also tells Godbee that she wants to become a writer. Godbee is very supportive of the idea and tells Martha about a short story she wrote when she was young. The story gives Martha an idea – it gives her way to give poor Olive’s mother a gift.

In then end Martha discovers that Jimmy is not whom she thought he was and the gift for Olive’s mother is never really delivered, but Martha comes through a difficult time and she makes peace with both Olive and with herself.

In this beautifully paced novel Kevin Henkes explores several months in a girl’s life as she struggles with the process of growing up and as she tries to comes to terms with the death of a schoolmate. Growing up is a rarely an easy process and this 2004 Newbery Honor title perfectly captures the confusion that many young people feel at this moment in their lives.