Olive's Ocean


Kevin Henkes

Number of Pages: 


Minimum grade level: 


Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. When Olive's mother gave Martha Olive's journal entry, Martha is startled by the coincidences in the two girls' lives. What are those coincidences, and how do they affect Martha?
  2. Godbee plays an important role in Martha's life, and Martha can tell her secrets she would never tell anyone else, like, "I want to be a writer" (pg. 56); and "I think I like Jimmy Manning" (page 83). What is it about Godbee that allows Martha to be so honest with her?
  3. On pages 86-87, Martha thinks about her most embarrassing moment. But later, when she discovers that Jimmy made a bet that he could get her to kiss him on video, she is mortified. Which do you think is worse? Why?
  4. After the incident with the videotape, Martha "became intensely aware of her separateness to the whole world" (page 132). If she is separate, why is she so upset over Jimmy's betrayal? Why do you think she is so angry with Vince, who had very little to do with Jimmy's plan to kiss her on tape?
  5. Martha decides that she will "pretend the kiss and the tape were meaningless.Like Olive, she would quietly proceed with her life" (page 133). Can she do this? How does she decide to handle the situation?
  6. After Martha falls into the ocean and almost drowns, she begins to understand that the world does not revolve around her and that it would continue to exist without her (page 165). How does this affect the decisions she makes and the rest of her vacation at Godbee's house?
  7. The author uses foreshadowing throughout the book to build tension. When Tate writes Martha a note that reads, "I think I know what to do" (page 172), readers are left anxiously waiting to find out what Tate will do. Do you think Tate came up with a good plan? Do you think Martha feels better afterwards? Why?
  8. The author uses Martha's dream (page 185) and her grandmother's dream (ppage 150-151) to move the story forward. How do these dreams relate to their lives? What effect do the dreams have on the decisions they make?
  9. When Martha gets the videotape from Tate, she realizes that "what was inside her head and heart made her feel as thought there was no one else in the whole world she would rather be" (page 199-200). Why is she so happy about who she is?
  10. After returning home, Martha tries to take Olive's Ocean to her mother. As she sits on Olive's front porch, Martha thinks, "If I met you now, I would be your friend, Olive" (page 216). What events in Martha's life brought her to that discovery? Why did Martha personally bring Olive's Ocean to her home?
  11. Early in the book, Martha writes Olive's name on the curb at the site of her accident (page 15). At the end, Martha writes her name in ocean water on the steps of Olive's home (page 216). How are the two instances different? Does Martha feel differently about Olive? About life?

If you liked this book try

  • Blue Eyes Better by Ruth Wallace-Brodeur
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis
  • The Birthday Room by Kevin Henkes
  • Dangling by Lillian Eige
  • Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff


Candy kisses (since kisses are so central to the story!)

Portions of this discussion guide are credited to the HarperCollins online reading guide for Olive's Ocean.

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.