In yesterday's post, I mentioned that my students are doing an independent reading project in class. They got to select a book from a wide selection of recommendations from their peers. I like to read the first few pages of all the books, just to get a sense of what they're about. That way I can help kids pick books that will work for them.
One book in particular, Olive's Ocean, caught my attention. I usually read the author bio first, and when I saw that Kevin Henkes lives in Madison, my interest was piqued. Then I read the first few pages, and I was hooked. By the end of the day, I was half way through the book. I cranked out the second half easily the next day. Olive's Ocean is actually the story of 12 year Martha Boyle. Olive was a classmate who recently died when her bike was hit by a car. Martha and Olive weren't friends, but Olive wrote in her journal that Martha was the nicest girl she knew. The story begins when Olive's mom hand delivers her daughter's journal to Martha. The Boyles are getting ready to spend a week at their Grandma's house on Cape Cod. Martha and her brother, Vince, call their grandma Godbee, and Martha looks forward to their visit every summer. This visit is a journey of self-discovery for Martha.
There's a lot of humor in this book, and young readers, even the guys, will definitely be able to relate to the issues Martha is dealing with: parents, siblings, loss, friendship, boys/girls. It will ring true to kids 12 and older. I definitely want the girls to read this one, but not before 12, that feels like the right cut-off. What's really impressive is that parents will enjoy this book as well. Henkes has given adults a nice look into the mind of a young person on the cusp of adolescence. This is truly a book for readers of all ages.