Olga, written by Ted Kelsey and illustrated by Dillon Samuelson, is an exciting novel for children that will captivate readers of all ages.
Jack and Sally are typical twelve-year-olds who experience the most extraordinary journey when they see a strange figure dancing in a dark field near their homes. They decide to investigate, and are whisked away to a mysterious cloud castle where they discover unfriendly giants who are plotting to invade Jack’s and Sally’s world. Can they escape from the giants and stop their nefarious plan?
Ted Kelsey has done a marvelous job crafting a story that will enthrall young readers. His writing is spot on for this age group, sprinkling in just enough suspense and humor to keep young readers engaged. And he introduces fun words like “flishflash” and “Freakything” that’ll make some giggle.
The illustrations by Dillon Samuelson are beautifully done and they really add an interesting component to help readers visualize what’s happening. There are quite a few, yet greedy readers may want more of them. They’re that good and fun to see.
The setting of the story allows the author to create some wonderful images. Since they are in a cloud castle, Kelsey has several tense scenes involving the fragility of the clouds. At times, there’s a fear that one of the characters will fall through, and in the words of one of the magical creatures, a moth who asks a distressed Sally for her flashlight, “Before you finish making a hole and … fall through … and … and—splat—.” Scenes like this really heighten the excitement and make it easy for children to picture what’s happening.
Even though the giants are plotting against the human world, this story isn’t a clear cut one of good versus evil. Olga, the giant responsible for bringing Jack and Sally to her world, is unusual, and not just because she’s the last Cloud Giant. At times she’s cruel. And then she’s vulnerable and lonely. It’s extremely clever of the author to create such a nuanced character that many will sympathize with even though she’s one of the “bad” guys. This dilemma is insightful and true to life. Humans are flawed and it’s these flaws that many will have to contend with all their lives. Introducing this concept to young readers is a wonderful way to include a little dose of reality in a fantasy adventure. The author isn’t preachy, but he does introduce some concepts that will get children thinking.
Olga brought Jack to her world so he could protect her from being forced into marrying Balzor, the last Thunder Giant. She thinks Jack will be her hero.
“Holy Cow-pies! What happened?”
“Oh, Jack,” she said, “We need a hero in this land badly!”
Yet the author has a twist to the story, and the real hero is a girl. It’s refreshing and commendable to have a middle-grade novel with a female heroine. This doesn’t mean the story won’t appeal to boys. It will. In fact, readers of all ages, boys and girls, will enjoy this clever tale.
Olga explores the concepts of good and evil, friendships, and loneliness. There are twists and turns, moral lessons, loads of action and adventure, and many memorable characters.
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