By Carrie MacGillis
Olivia and the Little Way (by Nancy Carabio Belanger and illustrated by Sandra Casali LewAllen) is a delightful story about a young girl named Olivia who, with her grandmother’s help, forms a spiritual relationship with St. Therese of Lesieux. Through her St. Therese chaplet, grandmother’s stories and a book she reads about the saint she learns that St. Therese often dealt with struggles similar to the ones she is dealing with as a 5th grade student in a new Catholic school. After moving from Texas to Michigan, Olivia starts the school year at a new school and discovers things are different for her now. In her old school she had good friends and felt comfortable in her surroundings. Now she is faced with developing new friendships with girls who are not exactly the type of people she can count on for solid, virtuous relationships. She struggles with wanting to have new friends, but the two girls who are friendly to her turn out to have some less than appealing traits. They tease other children, break rules and are a bad influence on Olivia. She finds herself making bad decisions and doing things she would not normally do. As she makes bad choices she is faced with the natural consequences of her actions.
Throughout all of her trials Olivia has the help of St. Therese to comfort her and lead her to the real answers to her problems. However, Olivia doesn’t always accept St. Therese’s guidance, even though she knows in her heart it is the true way to happiness and peace. As her struggles become more confusing and complicated, Olivia is able to gain strength from St. Therese to find the some answers and even help others with their problems. She gains some new friends that she didn’t expect to find. She brings people together who originally could not find a common ground. Eventually Olivia even is given a gift that she hoped for all along.
Olivia and the Little Way is a beautiful story showing the struggles of peer pressure, obedience, faith, trust, hope and love. It is a perfect book for an elementary school student to read over the summer or for a book report. The author provides you with many moments of suspense and relief as Olivia works through her troubled times. Olivia is a good example for children who may be going through their own confusing situations. She shows how even if you make a bad decision, God always gives you the opportunity to repair your mistakes. She also shows you how you can learn through suffering, rise above the desires of wanting to please friends, and come out a more mature and happy person. This book is also a wonderful story for parents to read to their children. It is a wonderful vehicle for exploring the role of saints in the Catholic faith. Readers will enjoy the refreshing perspective for handling childhood problems and how being Catholic plays a role in everyday life.
My age recommendations for Olivia: I think the book is geared towards girls as it is about a girl and her friends. I thought it was good for 4th through 6th grade readers. The main character is in 5th grade. Strong 3rd grade readers could probably read the book but it is also a good chapter book for moms and young daughters to enjoy together!
Carrie MacGillis is a Scrapbook Artist, owner of Scrapbook Services with a Personal Touch, and the Editor of Michigan Scrapbooker. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine can be found at www.michiganscrapbooker.com.
Carrie MacGillis, M.S.
Editor & Publisher
Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine
Sylvan Lake, MI 48320
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