- Take Your Octopus to School Day by Audrey Vernick
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55710-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55712-5 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R 5-8 yrs
Sam’s school has wonderful special-occasion days for dress-up and celebration, and his pet Thurgood the octopus happily supports Sam’s efforts for Silly Hat Day, Super Sports-Fan Day, Space Travel Day, and so on. Unfortunately, “Sam’s costume was always really good—but someone else’s was always better,” and he’s getting tired of second place. Take Your Octopus to School Day is tailor-made for a Sam victory, especially when it turns out Thurgood’s only competition is a lowly squid, but then Thurgood disappears from his tank. Or so it appears, but then Caleb, the squid’s owner, teaches Sam about the excellence of cephalopod camouflage, and a shy Thurgood becomes visible once again. Vernick’s lively style brings humor and energy, and it’s clear that there are no bad guys in this classroom, just kids with substantial creative skills. The octopus-camouflage twist is an entertaining and science-friendly detail that may surprise some youngsters (have YouTube videos at the ready) while allowing others to share their octopus knowledge. Line and watercolor illustrations have the friendly vigor of Susan Meddaugh’s Martha books with an amiably hectic classroom vibe. Schoenbrun adds a multitude of jokes to the art, so kids will want to pore over them to catch details such as the enthusiastic participation of the class hamster and the teacher’s tactful amendation of the celebration to “Take Your Cephalopod to School Day.” Aside from exciting interest in octopuses, this could generate discussion of other possible unusual pets or just prompt some creative suggestions for silly special days.