Sunday, November 15, 2015

Olive of Groves, by Katrina Nannestad. Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

Staff review by Chris Saliba

The first in a series of three novels for children, Olive of Groves delights with its sense of fun and inventiveness. 

When young Olive turns up for her first day at Mrs Groves' Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers there is a problem. She is neither a boy, animal or circus performer. Eager to be accepted, she tries to join the school’s acrobatic troupe. This creates more problems, as Olive gets a bit wobbly when it comes to heights. But with courage and determination, she starts to build up her acrobatic skills and earn the acceptance of the troupe. Despite these successes, there are other setbacks. The school bully, Pig McKenzie (he’s actually a real pig), is causing her all sorts of grief. Luckily, Olive has made friends with three wonderful rats: Blimp, Chester and Wordsworth. With their help, along with a menagerie of other animals and some naughty boys, Olive manages to triumph.

There is much to enjoy in this entertaining novel full of weird and wonderful characters. It’s almost like a children’s vaudeville play, jam-packed full of circus performers and talking animals with their eccentricities. My favourite character was Mrs Groves, the flummoxed and flustered headmistress who’d rather hide behind her velvet curtains when things get too much. The descriptions of Pig McKenzie’s luxurious lair were also hilarious. The story’s light touch and sheer sense of fun are infectious.

I’m glad I read Olive of Groves. Katrina Nannestad writes to entertain and charm, both of which I was.

Ages 9-12

Olive of Groves, by Katrina Nannestad. Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo. Published by ABC Books. ISBN:  9780733333682  RRP: $19.99

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