Mindy's Reviews > Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
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Sep 02, 2008

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Read in September, 2008

Although Olive's Ocean is a Newbery Award winner, it is also a challenged book. It is about a girl named Martha who takes a trip with her family to visit her grandma at the end of summer vacation. Before they leave, Martha has a strange visitor, Olive's mother. Olive, an extremely shy girl in Martha's class, had recently passed away after being hit by a car while riding her bike. Martha knew who Olive was but had never really talked to the girl. Neither did anyone else at school except to tease her. Olive's mother gave Martha a piece of paper from Olive's journal. When Martha read it, she was shocked to discover that Olive wrote that Martha was the nicest kid in the entire class. Olive hoped they could become good friends the next year or during the summer. Also, Olive dreamed of seeing the ocean and being a writer. Martha had recently decided she was going to be a writer, and she hadn't even told her best friend yet. Martha's grandma lived by the ocean, so she would be seeing the ocean soon. There were so many strange coincidences between Martha and this girl she hardly knew. She couldn't get Olive out of her mind. She kept thinking about her on the airplane and all of the way to her grandmother's house. Martha's brother, who is one year older than Martha, spends most of his time with the Manning brothers, who live near the grandma's house. Martha's parents mostly look after her two-year-old sister, so Martha spends a great deal of her time talking to her grandma. Martha and her grandma have a very close relationship, and Martha tells her grandma she wants to be a writer. She begins writing a story about Olive, but then stops because she cannot come up with a story that she felt was good enough for Olive. Also while she is staying with her grandma, she has some confusing, exciting, embarrassing, and infuriating encounters with two of the Manning brothers. However, throughout the entire trip, Martha cannot stop thinking about Olive and how much she wanted to see the ocean. Finally, she comes up with a plan to take back a baby food jar full of ocean water and give it to Olive's mother. Martha called the jar Olive's Ocean. However, when she arrives back home, Olive's mother has moved. So Martha takes a paint brush and paints Olive's name on the cement steps of her old house with the ocean water until all of the water was gone. Then Martha said good-bye and proclaimed that if she knew Olive now, they would be friends. This book is probably at upper elementary level.

This book is only challenged because of the offensive language throughout the book. There are around eight words that could be considered offensive, such as damn and piss. It was also challenged because it was sexually explicit. However, I did not notice anything in the book that was sexually explicit except for maybe the time when Martha's brother called his parents' good morning kisses as "Morning Sex Behavior." I could see why some parents wouldn't want their children reading a book with offensive language, but children hear it all of the time from the media and the people around them. The book's plot was fine. There would be no problem with the book if the author had simply left out the offensive language. I didn't even feel it wasn't even necessary for the plot or character development, so I'm not sure why it was included. Personally, I would not have my students read this book. I thought the book was good but not good enough to take the chance of making some parents upset and angry.
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04/02/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Masha (new)

Masha Very helpful description for a teacher. Thanks!


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