Esteemed author Carolivia Herron shares the story based on her own fascinating history as a Jewish African-American. Always an Olivia is a heartwarming story of pride and family connections. Young readers will discover a unique piece of history through the eyes of young Carol Olivia as her grandmother passes on the story of her family — from one generation to another. From the Spanish inquisition to Jewish life in Portugal and Italy, Herron describes the joys and struggles of Jewish life. The youngest of readers might be alarmed when beautiful young Sarah is kidnapped by pirates, but Sarah’s future brightens when one of the pirates aids in her escape. Like a real-life fairytale, they eventually fall in love and settle on the Georgia Sea Islands, among the descendants of West African slaves. Deep colored illustrations beautifully depict the characters and the scenery. Particularly noteworthy are the vibrant flowers depicted in the illustration of the Georgia Sea Islands, which contrast the darkness of the night sky when Sarah is in captivity. Herron includes a footnote of “Jews and Racial Designation,” which will be of interest to teachers and students. Always an Olivia is a unique and important addition to any Jewish school or library. Although appropriate for readers as young as five, older children will be interested in the political and family history aspects of the story. This book is sure to be a favorite among teachers embarking on family genealogy projects. Highly recommended. Ages 5 and up.
Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer and children’s book reviewer. She is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is the author of the middle grade book, Like a Maccabee. She has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at www.BarbaraBBookBlog.Blogspot.com.