Children - Grade 4th-6th
192 Pages
Reviewed on 10/20/2015
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Author Biography

Ted Kelsey is a writer living in the Peekskill, of the Hudson Valley in New York. He is the author of the fairytale fantasy OLGA among other books.

OLGA was the 2016 Novel of the Year by the Underground Book Reviews. It also received an Award for Illustration by Readers' Favorite, and was an Official Selection by New Apple Literary

His work for young readers has been praised for its imaginative scenarios, strong female protagonists and cliff-hanger chapters.

    Book Review

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.

Ray Simmons

Olga by Ted Kelsey is a new and exciting book for children. Olga takes place in the modern world but it is most definitely a fairy tale. I was reminded of that childhood classic Jack and the Beanstalk. Olga has magic, adventure, and even a real fairy who happens to have forgotten who she is. Jack and Sally live in Chilton, a small town on the side of Mount Chalktop. Jack and Sally think Chilton is the most boring place in the world, but one day, while playing their own special version of Hide and Seek, they stumble upon the beginning of an incredible adventure. Jack and Sally will find wonder and see many new things. They will be afraid and confused, but in the end they will respond heroically to the trials that lie ahead of them.

I think children will like Olga. Jack and Sally are kids they can relate to. The antagonist in the story seems to be Olga, who is a giantess, but unlike the rest of the family of giants, Olga is a very complex girl. She has her own needs and dreams and will defy her father and all the other giants to get what she wants. I liked this story mostly because of the complexity of the relationship between Jack and Olga, and I think kids will be drawn to that element of the story too. There are some beautiful illustrations by Dillion Samuelson and Ted Kelsey’s ending leaves room for future adventures.

April Gilly

Olga by Ted Kelsey is the adventure of Sally and Jack, two young humans who kind of follow the tale of Jack and the Bean Stalk. You've got your human eating giants, and a castle in a beautiful and mysterious cloud world that humans have no idea exists. Jack and Sally are your typical preteens, curious about everything, including the creepy thing they find hovering in a field behind an empty house in their neighborhood. Tugged into the world of giants by the thing they found and foolishly grabbed onto, they find themselves on an adventure to save their lives and get back home before it's too late.

Jack finds himself the plaything of the giant princess Olga after his wild ride ends. Sally got separated from Jack soon after they find themselves in the cloud world, and she goes on a mission to find and save Jack. Along the way, Sally meets interesting moths that help her find Jack in the castle made of bones. They are reunited for a short time before they get separated again and Sally goes exploring to see if she can find a way home. In her travels she meets Freakything and comes up with a plan.

Olga by Ted Kelsey uses amazing imagery that allows you to picture what is going on and the illustrations by Dillon Samuelson are strategically placed, beautifully rendered, and help show exactly what Ted Kelsey was conveying when others might have come up with a different picture. Ted Kelsey put a new spin on Jack and the Bean Stalk to make the story that much better. I will be recommending Olga to my daughter. While Olga has its roots in a childhood story, Ted Kelsey puts a spin on it that makes it enjoyable for readers of all ages!

Tiffany Davis

Olga is a childhood novel of the fight between good and evil by Ted Kelsey. A shadowy figure seen in the air, floating in the fields, intrigued two twelve-year-olds named Jack and Sally, and they vow to figure out what is going on beyond the clouds. Their imagination takes the two of them to a magical place which proves to be the home of Olga. The story is very cute and kept my daughter's attention with the descriptions and vivid pictures. Olga the elephant wants to be released from her arranged marriage and is determined to succeed. While watching Jack and Sally on Earth she entraps Jack, and it's left up to Sally to save the day. Sally does a great job at finding her way through tasks as she tries to figure out how to get back home.

This story is a great way to teach children about loyalty, friendship and patience. The twists and turns of the storyline had me pleased that this book is for children because it shows great determination while also entertaining and teaching a lesson. I loved this story from beginning to end and would recommend Olga by Ted Kelsey to readers in the elementary school age group. The story is definitely a page turner and keeps your full attention. I thought it was excellently written.

Lisa McCombs

During a friendly game of Ghosts in the Graveyard, Sally and Jack find themselves in a land where a flashlight is referred to as a flish-flash, moths are magical enchanting creatures, and giants rule the clouds. Their initial goal was to brave the forbidden evils of The Terror House when reality became far more sinister than the evils of imagination. At first it was just the end of their neighborhood game, the walk home. But out of nowhere appears an unidentifiable bouncing apparition in the distance. Curious, the two agree to investigate. It looks harmless. A wayward child’s toy? What they find is a large stuffed elephant attached to a silver string. Jack reaches out to grab the toy, only to find himself stuck to the surface. Jack and Sally are suddenly transported into the clouds, where they find a horrible assortment of giants whose goal is to overtake Earth, consuming the delicacies of human flesh in the process.

Olga is both an enchanting and disturbing tale. Reminiscent of Harry Potter, it is certain to attract a young reader population. I was completely absorbed in the words of author Ted Kelsey. Illustrator Dillon Samuelson creates thoughtful visuals of the author’s written word. Not only is Olga a finely written fantasy, there is a strong emphasis on social and moral mores in the story that suggest an allure for older readers as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Olga on a list of children’s classics one day soon.