Book Review: How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills

Dear friends, I apologize for a delay in posting yet again. I have been grieving the loss of a loved one. Thank you for your patience with me as I get back on my usual track of weekly posts.

I had the great pleasure of having Claudia Mills as one of my professors at Hollins University this summer. She was truly amazing and helped each of her students through our own unique hurdles of writing. In class she would reference her process of writing How Oliver Olson Changed the World, so I read it … and loved it!

The book itself is a quick and easy read, which is great for on-the-go parents who like to read with their children. The length also would keep the attention of a less-than-voracious little reader.

The reader identifies with main character Oliver Olson, who believes his ideas aren’t big enough to change the world. As Oliver works on the class assignment to make a diorama of the solar system, he learns he does have great ideas and good friends. As he finds his own self-worth, he gains the strength to help his over-bearing parents realize their need to give him some space to grow.

I enjoyed the plot on many levels. On one level, the simple yet realistic story sprinkled with hilarious moments makes it enjoyable. On a deeper level, even as an adult I felt inspired by Oliver’s realization of his own unique ideas, personality, and strength. Great writing like this can touch any reader regardless of the marketed age group.

I appreciated the scientific facts about the solar system, which were imperative for the story, being told in a very interesting way. I especially loved the class’ varying reactions on poor little Pluto no longer being a planet. Mills kept my interest piqued. Despite most of the story being in classroom where we learned about the solar system, I did not feel like I was stuck in a lecture.

I must also applaud the mechanics that make this book so well-written. The pacing of the plot, the character growth (so much in such a short amount of time!), and the dialogue are all outstanding. These pieces may seem odd to note, but I believe all of the aspects of writing must come together to make a good story, even (perhaps even especially) for our young readers.

All told, I highly recommend this story for the classroom, for children, as a great example for those writing chapter books, and/or for just a good read 🙂

What are your thoughts?