Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Oliver Olson Changed The World

How Oliver Olson Changed the World

Written by: Claudia Mills
Pictures by: Heather Maione
Recommended Ages: 5-8

How would you like it if your parents always did your homework? On first glance, most kids would probably think that would be pretty terrific. But after reading How Oliver Olson Changed the World, they might not think it was such a great idea.

How Oliver Olson Changed the World is a delightful, funny early chapter book that will capture early readers' attention right away. It features Oliver, a timid, overprotected third grader who manages to finally come into his own with the space diorama project. But in the beginning of the book, things are not looking so rosy for Oliver.

Early on we learn that his parents have managed to keep him in a protective cocoon for much of his life, due to starting out as a sickly child. Sleepovers-no! Riding bikes outside of the cul de sac-no! Doing homework on his own-no! With a diorama of the solar system on the horizon, we watch as Oliver's parents start organizing and planning the entire project. It's a pretty hilarious scene which may ring ever-so-true to many children and parents alike. Luckily for Oliver, he gets his first break when Crystal Harding (the most talkative girl in the school) decides that they should do the diorama together, and Oliver's parents are gently shoved aside.

What follows is a delightful story that includes fun facts about the solar system (it addresses Pluto's recent ouster from the planet kingdom in a thought-provoking way), as well as a very realistic depiction of third graders at work and play. Although Oliver and Crystal are the main characters, the other kids in the class are deftly drawn, so you get a sense of them as individuals.

In addition to the diorama, the class is also given an assignment to come up with an idea that would change the world. Of course, we get Oliver's mother's idea:
"Put a sign by the school that says no U-turns....It could save someone's life. It could change the world for one person at least."
And Oliver's idea:
" Schools should make a rule that parents can't help homework. It's like, what's the point of homework, if parents do it?"

There's a neat twist in the end that contributes a lot to the growth of Oliver's character. And grow he does, in a perfect third-grade way.

How Oliver Changed the World is lighthearted, but also poignant. The writing is breezy and very funny. I actually found myself chuckling to myself in quite a few places. I think this would be a great read-aloud book for a first or second grade class, as well as a perfect early chapter book for the emerging reader. Highly recommended.


Sarah N. said...

I got the chance to read Oliver Olson for the Cybils and I loved it. I think the humor is terrific.

Helena Harper said...

The way you have described this book, I can imagine that it is very funny! Having been a school teacher myself for 20 years (though at high school, not elementary school), I can relate to the setting AND to the problem of parents doing homework!!! Much better for them not to do it, as Oliver says. The theme of someone trying to find their own feet is relevant not just to children, but to adults as well! This does sound like an excellent book. Thank you for the review!

Helena Harper, Author of "It's a Teacher's Life...!"

Heather Hedin Singh said...

I quickly read through the book a few months ago and thought the parents were hilarious! I also loved the details about the planets. Great review.

Caroline said...

This book sounds great - I hadn't heard of it before, but now I definitely want to read it!

Catherine Ensley said...

I haven't read this particular book, but it looks like you review the type of books I like to read. I'll follow you! Please consider following me. :)

Jaymie said...

This is a cute book. I also liked her book 7x9=Trouble.

Robin Gaphni said...

I will have to check out 7x9=Trouble. She has a very easy to read writing style, which should go over well with the younger crowd.

Lubna said...

Robin, after having become a fan of your blog and seeing how well you describe each book, I think you should write a couple of books and not just blog about other books. You are really very good.

Robin Gaphni said...

Thanks so much, Lubna. I AM working on an early chapter book and a middle grade book, so we shall see. Thanks so much for your vote of confidence!

Eric said...
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