Saturday, July 17, 2010

2004 Newbery Honor

Olive's Ocean

by Kevin Henkes

Olive’s Ocean is a remarkable story about twelve-year Martha Boyle and her coming-of-age summer. The plot deals with the heroine confronting first experiences with romance, betrayal, and death. Martha, along with her family, is spending two weeks with her grandmother who lives near the ocean. This is an annual family tradition; however, this year is a bit different. Martha chooses to spend a great deal of time alone as she ponders the odd tie she seems to have with Olive, a former classmate who died in a tragic bicycle accident. After receiving a note found in Olive’s journal from the girl’s mother, Martha discovers that they each had many things in common as well as similar dreams for the future. In her note, Olive expresses her desire to become a writer, to visit the ocean, and to become friends with Martha. Additionally, Martha has her first experience with young love. This year, the relationship between Martha and the Manning boys, summer regulars at Cape Cod, has changed. Instead of just being buddies, at least one of the guys is now showing a different kind of interest in Martha, and she is not sure how to handle it. Finally, Martha must deal with the fact that her grandmother’s health is deteriorating and her death is looming.

I read this book some time ago, and was originally drawn to it when I saw the cover of the book and that Kevin Henkes was the author. I really enjoyed the book and could identify with the main character’s adolescent experiences. Henkes does a great job capturing the feelings of those experiences. Like Martha, I was also very close to one of my grandmothers whom I lost when I was a young child.

Kevin Henkes is an incredible writer capable of producing fantastic and imaginative books for young readers as well as great novels for older children. Other books by Henkes include Chester’s Way, Wemberly Worried, Chrysanthemum, Julius the Baby of the World, Kitten’s First Full Moon, and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

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