There are only a handful of books each year that stand out and shine brighter than all the others. Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad and illustrated by Lucia Masciullo is one of these books. I want to shout about it from the rooftops and shove it into the hands of all the kids I meet. It has shot to the top of the list of my favourite kids books of 2015.
Olive has always dreamed of attending boarding school, but Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers is not what she expected. To tell the truth, dear reader, it is not what anyone expected!
The headmistress is completely bonkers and Pig McKenzie, school bully and all-round nasty swine, is determined to make Olive’s life unbearable.
Olive, however, is clever, sweet and kind, and soon gains the loyalty and devotion of three rats, a short-sighted moose, a compulsive liar and a goose who faints at the sight of cherries.
But will friendship and wits be enough when Pig McKenzie puts his Truly Wicked Plan into gear? Or will Olive be cast out of Groves forever?
Olive of Groves is an enchanting, entertaining and incredibly funny book, packed with imagination. I love everything about this book, from the crazy antics to the wonderful characters. I picked it up thinking that the blurb sounded intriguing and I fell in love with it from the very first page.
It’s a story about doing the right thing and being the better person in the face of bullies, believing in yourself and being the best friend that you can be. With a headmistress who is afraid of girls, Olive has to set out to prove that she is not a ‘simple, ordinary, everyday girl.’ Throughout the story we discover how extraordinary Olive is. She is kind, sweet, brave and a very loyal friend. Olive is the sort of girl that everyone would want to be friends with and I know that the kids reading this story will love her as much as I did. Olives is certainly one of my favourite protagonists in any of the books I’ve read and I hope we get to read more of her adventures.
Olive is only one of the many wonderful characters that inhabit Mrs Groves Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers. If you step through the doors you’ll meet Blimp (a rat with a large bottom), Wordsworth (a rat who loves words), Chester (a rat who loves buttons), Glenda the Goose (who faints at the thought of the nine times tables), Reuben the Rabbit (who loves nothing more than a good spin in the washing machine), Fumble (a shy talking moose), Mrs Groves (the ‘teeny-weeny bit odd’ headmistress), the villain of the story, Pig McKenzie, and many, many more. I love all the characters, but my favourites are the three rats – Blimp, Wordsworth and Chester.
Katrina sweeps you up in the story with her lyrical writing and amusing dialogue. She had me smiling all the way through the book and there were several parts where she had me laughing out loud. I also Lucia’s illustrations. They perfectly match this delightful story and bring Katrina’s characters to life. My favourite illustration is on page 217, where we see Olive leading a whole bunch of the characters on a rescue mission.
I’m glad that Katrina has more adventures planned for Olive of Groves and I can’t wait to see what her and the gang get up to next. Olive of Groves is the perfect present for 7-12 year olds so grab a copy for your children this Christmas. I guarantee they will love it!