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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Olga is a children’s and preteen adventure fantasy novel written by Ted Kelsey and illustrated by Dillon Samuelson. Nothing ever happened in Chilton. It was a pretty boring place for a kid to grow up in, so much so, as Sally liked to tell her cousin who lived in New York City, that Sally’s backyard actually borders a beet farm. Still, on late summer afternoons as twilight closes in, there are plenty of kids around to play Ghosts in the Graveyard, which is somewhat like hide-’n-seek only backwards. This time around Sally’s friend, Jack, is it, and it’s getting close to the last few minutes before parents start getting angry about missed dinners. Jack’s never been quite the same as the other kids, however; he likes to cut up and doesn’t seem to have to follow as many rules as Sally and the other kids do. No one can find Jack in this last game of the day, but Sally gets the feeling he’s hiding on the grounds of the Terror House, a wrecked and decaying house that might be haunted and is on the forbidden-to-enter list of every kid. When Sally enters the grounds to find Jack, she’s transfixed by an odd sight in the field that has obviously caught Jack’s eye. It’s a shambling, dancing thing with a big head and short stubby legs, and Jack is determined to figure out just what it is.
Ted Kelsey’s adventure fantasy for children and preteens, Olga, is a wildly imaginative and thought-provoking variant of the classic Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. Jack and Sally are consummate adventurers who’ve even designed a code of light flash messaging to communicate to each other in case of emergencies. The two of them are marvelous characters, filled with pluck, determination and loyalty, and I’m hoping to see them again in future works by this author. Kelsey’s giants are a hoot! They are alternately horrible, humorous and just plain ridiculous, and Dillon Samuelson’s inspired illustrations bring every nasty feature they possess out in riotous detail. Olga is a fast-paced story that blends the preteen fantasy and coming of age genres as Jack, Sally and Olga confront life-changing challenges and discoveries. Olga is highly recommended.