Name of Book: Olive’s Ocean
Author: Kevin Henkes
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Publisher’s Intended Audience: Grades 5-8
Summary: As Martha Boyle is getting ready to go to her grandmother’s house on the ocean, she receives a visit from the mother of a classmate named Olive who was recently killed in a car accident. Olive’s mother gives Martha a page from Olive’s journal and leaves. Although Martha was not friends with Olive, the journal entry suggests that Olive really wanted to be her friend. Martha reflects on this as she and her family spend time with her grandmother. Many things happen on the summer trip to Martha: Martha falls in love and is humiliated, shares deep thoughts with her grandmother, sees her family in a new light, and contemplates her own mortality as she seeks to remember and grieve for Olive Barstow.
Literary elements at work in the story: The genre of this story is contemporary realistic fiction. The setting for the majority of the story is the beach where Martha’s grandmother has her home. The plot is centered on Martha and her discoveries about life and about herself. The author’s characterization of Martha is typical of what many 12 year old girls may experience and feel as they grow and change. This book would be very appropriate for tweens in a middle school youth group.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic ability: No particular perspective is highlighted in this book although it is evident that Martha’s family is upper middle class. Mom has her own show at a radio station and dad is a lawyer who decides to return to his firm after taking time off to be a stay at home dad.
Scripture/Theme: This book has an overall theme of growing up and highlights the experiences that happen to a girl who is almost a teenager. Although the book is a fictional piece, the events described in it are realistic and ones that middle school girls could relate to as they grow and change in their own lives
- Although our thoughts, feelings, and bodies change as we grow, the unconditional love of God for all of God’s children remains constant.
- The Christian life is a journey on which we meet people and have experiences that mold and shape us as we walk the path toward sanctification.
Faith Talk Questions (Intended for use with Grades 5-8/ages 10-12):
- Why is Martha surprised by the visit from Olive’s mother?
- What does Martha realize when she is talking about Olive for Jimmy’s video?
- What do you as the reader learn as Martha writes “Olive’s” story?
- Why does Martha feel solidarity with Olive?
- What is the significance of the ocean and the beach setting to this story?
- How does Martha change from the beginning to the end of the story?
- Do you think that Martha will view people who cross her path differently in the future? Why or why not?
Review prepared by Marcia A. Rauch, MA in Christian Education (MACE), Entering cohort – 2006.
Olive’s Ocean by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.