Olive's Ocean

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Olive's Ocean
Olive's Ocean cover.jpg
Author Kevin Henkes
Illustrator Kevin Henkes
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)

Olive's Ocean is a 2003 book by Kevin Henkes that won the 2004 Newbery Honor.[1] The story's idea was taken from Kevin Henkes' question, "What was it like for authors growing up?"

The book will be made into a motion picture starring Elle Fanning.

Olive's Ocean was 59 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most challenged books from 2000 to 2009 for having "sexually explicit content and offensive language."[2]


Martha goes away every summer from her home in Wisconsin to visit her grandma, Godbee, on the Atlantic Ocean. Right before she left for Godbee's place, she received a journal page from Olive's mother after Olive died. Before receiving the journal page, Martha didn't know about Olive, who admired Martha for who she was even though they never talked at school or hung out. After Martha read the journal page from Olive, she felt regret not to be nice to her. She also found many common grounds with Olive, both of them love the ocean and want to be writers.

Upon their arrival at Godbee's house, an argument between Martha's parents arises and almost everyone becomes angry. This dispute causes Martha to hate her family for a short period of time, save for Godbee. As a result of this realization, Martha draws closer to her and talks with her more, which leads to an establishment of a routine. She and Godbee agree to share one secret about themselves with each other every day of their stay. Martha begins to write a story about Olive as a sort of memorial.

While there, Martha develops a crush on one of the Manning boys living nearby. Her older brother, Vince, is friends with them. She tells Godbee about him and all she has to say is to be careful. Martha adds Jimmy to her story about Olive, but renames him James. Jimmy is interested in film making and is making a film about "life". The "film" covers a couple of different facets, such as family, death and love. She begins to spend more time with Jimmy and accompanies him as he records various things and events for his project. She even does an interview and tells Olive's story for the "death" portion. As part of the "love" section of the film, Jimmy spontaneously sets up his camera on the way back home and kisses her. A moment later, Martha learns that she's been tricked and that Jimmy had made a bet with Vince and the other Manning boys that he could get her to kiss him on camera. She runs off, crying, goes home and scraps the story that she had written about Olive and James. Jimmy's younger brother, Tate, who is Martha's age and secretly likes Martha, wants to help her. Before Martha leaves she gets jar and fills it with the ocean water to give to Olive's mom in order to fulfill Olive's dream. It said in the letter that Martha received from Olive's mother that Olive had always wanted to go to the ocean. This would be "Olive's Ocean." Martha says good-bye to Godbee. All Martha hopes for is that she will be able to see her next summer as well. As she is leaving for Wisconsin, Tate stops her and hands her a bag. In an accompanying note, he apologizes once again for Jimmy's actions and also confesses that he likes her. At the airport she goes to the bathroom with the bag and opens it and sees that it is Jimmy's tape inside the bag.

Then at home in Wisconsin, Martha goes to Olive's mother to give the ocean water to her, only to find that Olive's mother had moved to Washington or Oregon. Martha writes 'Olive' with ocean water on the front step of Olive's house until the water runs out. Martha stays until the sun dries up the word 'Olive'. And Olive, who had been in her mind a long time, is finally forgotten. And then Martha returns home where her loving family is.


  1. ^ MacPherson, Karen (August 18, 2011). "Top children's authors offer winning reads". The Detroit News. 
  2. ^ Asai, Rummanah (September 29, 2011). "Books in the Spotlight - Banned Books Week 2011: Olive's Ocean". Retrieved September 26, 2014.