About This Book:
*Review Contributed by Mark Buxton, Staff Reviewer*
Finding balance in a hectic life.
Compared to most graphic novels I’ve read, this book does pretty well in developing Olive’s character. The whole story is about her and the many different activities she takes on. Middle-grade readers may relate to her stress since that’s a time when many new clubs, sports, and hobbies become available to them. It’s a time to explore interests but that sometimes gets out of control. Olive is enthusiastic (impulsive?) as she’s already quit karate after three classes and now spontaneously plans to enter a short-film contest she notices on a bulletin board. Never mind the fact she doesn’t have an idea for a film nor does she have a camera to record one. She displays social awareness as she uses her position on the student council to challenge the school dress code. However, she lacks the foresight of the consequences of joining the Berry Scouts in addition to school, homework, and other commitments.
There are a couple of curiosities about the story that may resonate with young readers. The film contest consumes Olive’s attention despite being one thing in her life she hasn’t planned on. She notices an ad for the upcoming contest and it immediately distracts her in school and at school when she should be practicing guitar, doing homework, and helping her friend with Berry Scouts. Another unexpected aspect of the story is the fact there aren’t any negative characters. All of Olive’s friends and classmates get along and are respectful to adults. It seems like every book has at least one character who goofs off, bullies others, or causes trouble but you won’t find that in this one. Actually, Olive’s friends, family, and teachers are very supportive and understanding even though they’re not fully aware of what she’s going through.
As with all graphic novels, pictures are used to replace text so they’re very important in telling the story. The illustrations in this book aren’t overly detailed but they effectively communicate events and emotions to keep the plot moving. Groups of pictures quickly display time passing in school and dinner at home to allow more focus on Olive’s overwhelming extracurricular activities. Facial expressions and graphic techniques offer clues to characters’ feelings as conflict and tension affect their lives. A sequence of illustrations shares Olive’s nightmare caused by her internal conflicts as the plot nears its climax.
What didn’t work as well:
A common problem with graphic novels is the lack of text leaves out details and descriptions to help readers fully understand characters and make connections. The development of Olive’s character is better than average but the other characters are lacking. This book still presents an interesting story that generally reflects the lives of many middle-grade readers.
The Final Verdict:
The author/illustrator expertly meshes pictures and words to create a charming story of a young girl learning to find balance in her life. The pictures help keep the narrative moving and the conflict will be relatable for many young readers. I recommend you give this book a shot.