View Review Online
Reviewed by Terri Stepek from Reader Views
5-star: Fun, Delightful Perfection
Starting a kid’s book with the murder of an old man? Bold move, but it sure got my attention.
Many in town spoke of the recently deceased Oren Appleton as the “hermit of Oak Hill.” But to
the main character, he was a beloved grandfather.
We first meet Olly and his parents as they move into the inherited house on Oak Hill in Littleton,
Massachusetts. Olly has very fond memories of his grandfather spending time with him roaming
through natural areas, exploring, and playing games. Olly’s love for nature, and specifically
plants, comes directly from his grandfather’s influence. So, while Olly mourns the passing of his
grandfather, he sees the possibility of great adventure in exploring the woods of Oak Hill that the
older man adored. Having befriended a girl in town who shares his love for nature, Olly
inadvertently begins a journey of discovery that will change their lives.
Olly and his close-knit family are a joy to read about. They are genuine, engaging, and generous
in their love and appreciation for life. They’ve been facing a financial crisis that doesn’t seem to
improve as they settle into life in their new town. Their struggles are relatable, and it’s wonderful
to see how the parents work together to overcome obstacles they couldn’t have anticipated.
Olly’s relationship with Ember, a local girl his age, is fun to watch. She’s a firecracker who loves
botany, like Olly. She can also hold her own when it comes to witty banter, and their relationship
develops through the storyline into one of those rare soul-close friendships.
All of the characters in this story are nicely developed and appropriate for a middle-grade/high-
school read. The location of Oak Hill is a wonderland virtually any child would love to romp
through, even before we learn of the Spore community within. Spores are small nature-loving
creatures that have inhabited this site for centuries by remaining hidden. But when Olly and
Ember run into trouble with bullies from school, the Spores step in to help the grandson of their
good friend, Oren Appleton.
What follows is a beautiful story of young people allowing their hearts to open for others who
are different from themselves, while remaining firm in their beliefs, and standing up for the
rights of others. As a new mall threatens the homes of Olly’s and Ember’s families, it would also
destroy the community of Spores. Olly and Ember choose to stand in the gap and stop the mall
developer to preserve the community on the hill.
While I loved the characters, the location, and the storyline, it was the pacing that brought it all
together, creating a story that not just schoolchildren can enjoy. As the story progressed, the
energy level seemed to increase. There became a sense of urgency, a sense of pressing need as
though preparing for battle, and I found myself completely engrossed in the plight of these
people and the community in their struggle.
“Olly and the Spores of Oak Hill” by Glenn Somodi has everything a good novel needs: relatable
characters, both good and bad, mysterious events, great wit, spooky legends, a cause to stand up
for, and thrilling suspense. There’s even a touch of romance. I heartily recommend this book to
students in 5th through 12th grade and adults as well. I not only enjoyed this story, I devoured it,
and found myself wanting more.