Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad
Harper Collins Children's Books, 2015. ISBN 9780733333682
(Age: 8-11) Themes: Humour; Boarding school; Friendship; Bullying; Overcoming difficulties. This enjoyable rollicking tale involving a young, ordinary girl named Olive, who is enrolled into Mrs Groves' Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers almost by accident. It is not a 'standard' educational establishment in any way. The Principal is afraid of girls; lessons rarely follow any plan or allow any learning of any sort - except perhaps for the circus classes for the Acrobatic performers. The enrolled students are so strange they almost defy description - a knife thrower, rats that share a bedroom (and friendship) with Olive, a young student named Frank, whose skill is ironically his ability as a liar; a poorly sighted moose; and a goose that faints at the sight of cherries! Olive claims skills as an acrobat that she does not have, but accidentally discovers. The school also has the ubiquitous 'Bully' - a pig - who has the Principal in his control, and who selfishly does everything to upset every other student. Olive charms her other school mates, and they eventually solve all their problems using their unique skills in combination.
Because of the eccentric characters, the book is automatically funny - it is almost like a script for a quirky visual cartoon. Olive has a virtuous and endearing approach to life and her gentle friendliness and politeness make her very likeable. The 'bully' is so extreme in his obnoxious behaviour, that the reader knows immediately that this is a fantastic tale. This author knows how to entertain, and Olive of Groves will be enjoyed by young readers aged 8-11.