Monday, May 3, 2004

Olive's Ocean

Henkes, Kevin. 2003. OLIVE’S OCEAN. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060535431 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]

Kevin Henkes has scurried away from the mice that he normally writes about and tackles some tough issues that face a young girl. Martha, a twelve year old, has received a journal entry from one of her classmate’s mother. Olive, who has been killed by an automobile, has written in her journal that she would like to become friends with Martha. Martha only knows that Olive existed and died. She knows nothing else, but the two have something in common, both would like to be serious writers. Martha travels to Cape Cod with her family for the summer and hashes out many issues before returning. Martha learns a lesson in relationships and contemplates suicide when a boy betrays his true feelings and devastates her emotional well-being. It is at this time that Martha walks out into the ocean and allows the undertow to sweep her out towards the depths. But, before reaching a disastrous end, Martha comes to her senses, regains her strength, and emerges from death. It is at this time that she learns that the world does not revolve around her. She knows that Olive died and nothing else ceased to exist.

Martha’s beloved grandmother and sounding board is a comic relief that helps support the plot of the story. The remaining characters are there as a family base and a touch of humor to relieve the high-tension moments. This is a story filled with conflict between the characters and the conflict within themselves. The attempted resolutions are sometimes frightening, but ends on a compassionate and positive note.

Students will better understand the change a character goes through by examining how they are at the beginning of the story and at the end. Choose the central character that changes their personality when compared to how they are at the beginning of the book. After reading the book, ask students to examine the character at the beginning of the book. On half of a piece of paper, ask students to write the personality traits the character exhibits at the beginning of the book. When done, have the students examine the same character at the end of the book.

After reading the book, ask students to examine the central character and how that character act around at least one other character. Split a piece of paper into the number of situations that you want the students to examine. In each section, ask students to write down short descriptions of how the character acts, talks, and feels in each situation.


Other stories about growing up:
Hurwin, Davida. THE FARTHER YOU RUN. ISBN 0670036277
Hurwin, Davida. A TIME FOR DANCING. AISN 0316383511
McCafferty, Megan. SECOND HELPINGS. ISBN 0609807919
By Jill Howell

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