Olivia’s Gift

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Olivia, now 12 years old and heading into the 7th grade, is headed down to North Carolina for summer vacation.  Its not long, though,  before Olivia and her friend Hayley meet up with other kids their own age. These new friends are everything Olivia and Hayley are not – wealthy, popular, and beautiful. How far will Olivia and Hayley go to fit in? And do they really want to?

In the end, not even the sound of the surf can block out the small voice of St. Therese as she leads Olivia back to her Little Way. And Olivia discovers that there is no running away from God. He is everywhere – even in North Carolina.

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In the sequel to Olivia and the Little Way (not necessary to read, by the way, in order to enjoy this book), Olivia and her friend Hayley face the usual struggles of 12-year-old girls. The subject matter has matured with Olivia.  In this book, the girls struggle with “fitting in” with “cool kids”, modesty, and being stuck between “little girl” and “young woman.” I found the issues relevant and believe that Belanger handles them well.

Belanger’s prose has matured with Olivia as well. The writing is definitely more advanced than the first novel. While relevant, I found several holes in the plot and sometimes found the writing to be confusing and more difficult than was needed.  A minor quibble, to be sure, and not reason enough to avoid the book.

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  • Author: Nancy Carabio Belanger
  • Publisher: Harvey House Publishing (November 5, 2010)
  • Reading Age:

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What You Need to Know

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  • Role Models/Authority Figures – Olivia comes from a two parent family. Her parents are strong, but gentle authority figures. Olivia’s friends, Brandon and Brooke, come from a home with two parent family, as well. Though Brooke and Brandon’s parents are self-absorbed and don’t spend much time with them.
  • Violence – Brandon, Brooke, and Josh dig up a turtle’s nest and destroy the eggs. “It’s just an egg. It’s not alive yet” (199) The scene is intense as Olivia and Hayley fight to save the eggs (199-201).
  • Sexual Content – Olivia and her friend’s are 12 years old and entering the 7th grade. As such, a few of the characters are “boy crazy” or have crushes on other characters. Olivia notices her priest in a “handsome young priest.” (32) Olivia begs and pleads her parents to hang a poster of a popular teen band on her wall (34) Brandon and Hayley slow dance – Olivia’s father separates them (118). One of the themes of the book is modesty.
  • Language – None.
  • Consumerism – None.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs
  • Religion – The book is a reverent portrayal of Catholicism. Grandmother, Olivia’s father, Olivia, and Hayley go to a Eucharistic Adoration (Olivia admits here, she does not always feel like going) (215). Olivia goes through a simple, but appropriate, examination of conscious and goes to confession (223).
  • Other – Olivia wants to sponsor a child and, haunted by the image of the child in the newspaper, “she couldn’t let the tap water run anymore while she brushed her teeth – the thought of wasting fresh water when children like Maria had none was shameful.” (8) Some discussion of endangered sea turtles (142). Olivia lies to her  new friends about her family and wealth. She lies to her neighbor. She apologizes to all and tells the truth. Some awkward discussion of wealth and money with reference to those who have more than Olivia’s own family. “Sabrina certainly did not need the money, coming from a wealthy family” (5), “rich house” (62), “rubbing it in” (75), etc.
  • Awards – 2011 Royal Dragonfly Award, 2011 Catholic Press Award

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Olivia and the Little Way

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Fifth grader Olivia Thomas has moved to a new school in a new state.  To help ease the transition, Olivia’s grandmother gives her a chaplet and introduces her to St. Therese of Lisieux.  With her heavenly friend at her side, Olivia learns what it means to follow “The Little Way”. Following the Little Way isn’t always easy, though, and Olivia makes a bad decision. With her grandmothers help, Olivia re-finds the Little Way and discovers how sacrifice and love can change everything!

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Olivia and the Little Way is a heartwarming story that engages the soul. A sweet, wholesome tale that manages to weave the “Little Way” into any young girls heart in a very relevant way.

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  • Author: Nancy Carabio Belanger
  • Publisher: Harvey House Publishing (October 23, 2008)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Reading Age: Age 9+

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What You Need to Know

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  • Role Models/Authority Figures – Olivia’s has a strong, two-parent family home. Her parents are loving, but firm, and punish when necessary. Actions have consequences.
  • Violence – Olivia, Haley, and Sabrina are mean (teasing and throwing candy at his window) to Chad. All three of them, however, later apologize and they become friends.
  • Sexual Content – We see (but never together) that Haley’s older brother has a girlfriend.
  • Language – None.
  • Consumerism – There is mention of the real books, “Story of a Soul”, “Little House on the Prairie”, and “Reflections of St. Therese of the Child Jesus”.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None.
  • Religion – Olivia and her family are Catholic and go to mass. Olivia goes to a Catholic school headed by a very loving nun. Catholocism is portrayed accurately and reverently.
  • Other – The Sacrament of Reconciliation is pointedly absent. Not even a mention of it.
  • Awards – 2nd place Catholic Press Award 2009

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