A Calf for Olive
A Calf for Olive
Olive looked at her mother, who wasn’t smiling. Her mother didn’t have to say a word. Olive got the message. In the MacGregor farmhouse, everyone was expected to be polite and respectful. Olive may have been born with cerebral palsy, but that didn’t give her an excuse to take her grumpy mood out on others.
In the back of her mind, she could hear her father’s voice. Olive, you put the cart in front of the pony again, didn’t you? You need to learn to take time and think before you let your words leave your mouth! (p. 7)
More than anything, Olive, who has cerebral palsy, wants a calf that is her own, and she tells her parents she wants one for 4H and not a chicken like some of her friends have. She feels she is old enough to raise the calf, but her parents don’t feel that she is ready. Her brother, George, gets up early to help with the cattle on the farm and tries to help Olive to make her life easier. She doesn’t always appreciate what George does and then feels badly that she takes out her feelings on him. She also has a five-year- old brother, Ivan, who also wants to help Olive. Olive uses a four-wheeled walker around the house and then a power wheelchair when she goes out. Most of her classmates accept her, but she overhears someone say that she can’t do what normal kids do. When she tells her parents about the teasing, they decide that maybe she is ready for a calf and can choose the one she wants. She also wants to enter her calf in the 4H competition. When Olive’s grandparents move to the farm, her grandmother is a great help to Olive as she works with her calf named Moofy.
A Calf for Olive is an excellent story about determination, independence and the abilities and challenges of a person with cerebral palsy. There are 19 chapters with titles that suggest the plot’s direction. Some examples are “Olive’s Family and Friends”, “Overheard Outside the Classroom”, “Grammy and Grampy Arrive”, “Exciting News”, and “Choosing a Calf”. There are many details that make this an authentic story about someone with cerebral palsy. For example, Olive uses an EZ Reacher to make her bed. Her parents want her to use a cell phone and a whistle when she goes out alone in case she runs into trouble. Interesting details about the farm’s animals are included, with one being the sheep that are spoiled and look for treats by the fence, and another involves the dog, Mia who is deaf but still sleeps by the sheep as if she is protecting them. The author also utilizes correct vocabulary for the names of the animals, like ewes for female sheep and heifer for a female cow.
The novel’s characters are engaging and realistic, including the class bully, Billy. A Calf for Olive would also be an excellent read-aloud choice, especially for the younger readers in the intended age group. The book’s content provides many opportunities for discussions around differences of abilities in people.
Deborah Mervold is a retired educator from Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, with experience as a high school English teacher and teacher-librarian and post-secondary experience working with instructors at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. She is a life-long learner with a love of reading and libraries.