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Review: Olive and the Big Secret by Tor Freeman

Olive and the Big Secret
By Tor Freeman

Templar Books (Candlewick Press)

ISBN: 9780763661496
Grade K-2
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Secrets. Little bits of information that can carry a ton of emotional weight. When we tell secrets, we are vulnerable – not a state humans tend to enjoy. But it can be nearly impossible to keep some emotions inside, so we go out on a limb and pass them on to friends, and with them, trust. Secrets play an especially big role in the lives of kids. Olive and the Big Secret takes on the topic in a way that young readers will relate to.

Molly, a rabbit, has a secret, and decides to tell her friend Olive, a cat. Olive knows she should keep the secret to herself. She tries. A couple times, she almost spills the beans, then stops. But eventually she tells her turtle friend Joe. Next stop, rumor mill – the secret once shared by only two people is out in the world, moving from one person to the next. When the secret gets back to Molly, she confronts Olive. But what is the secret that has caused this mess?

Freeman handles revealing the secret nicely. It’s never spoken, but set up on the front endpapers and hinted at it on the back endpapers. To tell the secret would seem to go against the concept of the book, but to give no clue would be cruel to the reader. This in-between approach makes perfect sense.

The mixed media illustrations sport a modern palette is vibrant and appealing. Characters have large, expressive anthropomorphized faces. Keeping backgrounds to a minimum, Freeman lets her characters run the show.

Here we have a book that looks at the big-picture results of trust broken. I could see this working well in a classroom setting. A sound read-aloud on a topic that ain’t going anywhere.

Review copy from the publisher.

Also reviewed by There’s a Book, books4yourkids.com.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. This was just on our new books cart and I love the ending! :D