Olga: Out of Control! by Elise Gravel

Review by Logaine Navascués

HarperCollins, September 2019

192 pages, hardcover, $15.99 CAD, ISBN 978-0-06-235132-6

Ages 8–12, Grades 3–7

Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fiction, Comedy/Humour, Science/Nature

“…it felt good to have a break from the house and all the creatures that lived in it. I felt a bit guilty about being THAT happy spending time away from my Olgamuses, but then Mr. Hoopah came in with a potato-and-cheese cake that totally took my mind off all of my responsibilities.

Observation #14:

Cake is a very effective guilt eraser.”

Science-loving Olga made the greatest discovery of her young life when she found a new animal species, the Olgamus ridiculus. In this third adventure in the Olga series, Olga encounters yet another new discovery, and challenge, as her beloved pet Olgamus, Meh, becomes the mom of seven baby Olgamuses! Will Olga be able to take care of them? Or will her life be totally out of control?

Using a hilarious approach to the scientific method, Elise Gravel tells us all about Olga’s newest experience as a caregiver through her smart observations, detailed diagrams, and funny day-to-day situations. The short paragraphs and witty descriptions are complemented by Gravel’s expressive linear illustrations, bringing Olga to life with both humour and tenderness. Readers can see the diagram of an Olgamus’ interior, follow a thirty-seven-step tutorial on how to put a leash on an Olgamus, and visualize interesting details about baby mammals, among many other facts (and fictions!) of the Olgamus’ way of living. Gravel masters the craft of combining serious information with eccentric characters and silly situations, creating an irresistible formula that is part of her signature style.

It is truly refreshing to have an independent and science-driven female protagonist in an overtly funny and action-packed story. It is also inspiring to see how Olga manages to get through this situation with the help of her neighbours, the shopkeeper, and nearest librarian. This serves as a reminder of the importance of collaboration, diversity, and respect to get things under control—or at least try to! It also encourages creative thinking while highlighting the power of having multiple points of view to find solutions to one problem.

This is definitely a great read for middle graders, and even suitable for older audiences who may be looking for a fast, light story, and lots of laughs.


Logaine Navascués is a Peruvian artist, writer, creative director, teacher and book maker, currently living in Vancouver. She is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter and two artist’s books. You can find her reading, collecting picture books, and eating chocolate while pursuing her MA in Children’s Literature at UBC.


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