Thursday, January 14, 2016

Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

He wanted her life to be sunshine and marigolds, fairy floss and pink lemonade, dancing tunes played on piano accordions and meadows full of frolicking lambs

Olive of Groves is a romp.  Reading this book is such a treat.  I smiled from page one through to page 260.  Some truly awful things happen to Olive (a couple of times I had to stop reading) but I knew I was in very good hands with Katrina Nannestad and that this gifted author would protect her heroine Olive.  Olive will survive. Olive will triumph. Goodness and kindness, patience and perseverance will defeat the evil school bully - Pig McKenzie.

Olive of Groves contains a huge cast of characters - each with special and sometimes dangerous talents.  There are eleven naughty boys.  Tiny Tim who never ever washes his socks, Reginald the butter spreader and Carlos an explosives expert.  There are eleven talking animals including three friendly rats - Wordsworth who loves his dictionary (I have quoted him at the top of this post), Blimp who loves to eat and Chester who collects and loves buttons.  Among the circus performers you will meet Anastasia, Eduardo and Alfonzo the most fabulous acrobats. Finally there is the school headmistress Mrs Groves "befuddled and bonkers" and Pig McKenzie "a pig of evil intent."

Olive arrives at her new school - Mrs Groves' Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers.

"Olive was ... a sensible and practical girl.  She ate peas with a spoon and folded her toast together like a sandwich so that if dropped, it could not land jam-side down; she wore her jet-back hair long enough to pull back into a ponytail, but short enough that it was easy to keep clean and tangle free; she kept small snacks under her pillow in case of midnight hunger pangs; and she arranged all her clothes in alphabetical order."

Can you see the problem?  How will Olive fit in to her new school?  She is a girl, not a boy or a talking animal. Her only course of action is to become a circus performer.  This will be difficult but Olive is determined to stay at Groves.  Mrs Groves tells Olive she can stay for one week on probation.  She is assigned her room and Mrs Groves quickly runs away because she is scared of girls!  When Olive finally reaches the turret Olive meets three very special rats. She sets out her possessions including her alarm clock and arranges her clothes in alphabetic order. After dinner Pig McKenzie visits her room.  He picks up her clock.  "Glass shattered and springs, coils, cogs, screws, hands, bells and other mysterious clockwork components exploded across the room."  This is the first of many horrid incidents involving the despicable pig.  Luckily her friends come to the rescue.  One of my favourite scenes comes the next day when these delightful little rats repair her clock.

"The newly assembled alarm clock was a truly amazing piece of engineering. ...The hands moved backwards in an anticlockwise direction, ... a chunk of cheese sat where the number eight used to be." In spite of this haphazard repair the clock and alarm still work.

One other little delightful touch in this book relates to the buttons.  Teachers could use this as a simple stimulus for writing.  Chester invents the most wonderful and fanciful stories to explain each button.

"I found this one down the back of the sofa in the library four weeks, two days and three hours ago.  It's from the Napoleonic Wars.  Fell off the Duke of Wellington's shirt during the Battle of Waterloo."

Here are some of the wonderful words in this book.  This is just a tiny sample :


Pig McKenzie uses some hilarious names for Olive - her is another fun writing exercise - finding words beginning with a particular letter - here is it O.


I loved The girl who bought Mischief and so I was delighted to see Katrina Nannestad had written another book.  Read an extract from Olive of Groves.  Once again I have found a book that is truly wonderful.  I recommend you rush into a library and grab this book today!  Make sure you read the chapter headings - they are part of the delight! I dare to hope this book will be short listed for our 2016 CBCA Book of the Year awards - fingers crossed.

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