Book review: Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus, by Irene Latham, illustrated by Thea Baker

Latham, Irene. Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus.  Illustrated by Thea Baker. Millbrook Press, 2018. Unp. $19.99. ISBN 9781512439939. Ages 5-9. P8Q8

Agnes, a Northern Pacific giant octopus, finds a postcard underwater and begins a series of postcard correspondences with a number of creatures above and below the waves. The illustrations are very lifelike, as is the life cycle story of Agnes as she locates a safe place to lay her eggs and cares for them. I enjoyed the artwork and lifelike depiction of the octopus’ life to its conclusion when the eggs hatch and she fades to white and dies. The postcards didn’t add a lot for me, but do sneak in some real information about the octopus and its neighbors. The last pages give more information about octopuses and a list of suggested reading.

VERDICT: Children who enjoy a lifelike story that ends a bit sadly/realistically will enjoy the illustrations and story of the life and death of this cephalopod. It isn’t a very upbeat story, so readers looking for a fun picture book might pass this one by.

February 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

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Book review: Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. Also an Octopus. Illustrated by Benji Davies. Candlewick Press, 2016. Unp. $16.99. ISBN 9780763670849. Ages 3-7. P7Q7

This book allows us to learn how to create a story while having fun with the plot. It starts with showing that a character is needed to start a story, then suggests some cute ideas with graphics. The octopus becomes the character, and it gives a sense of humor by tossing out ideas like… it plays the ukulele. Or if it wants something added to the plot… maybe a sandwich! The text takes the reader on journey of possibilities on where the story might lead this octopus and the graphics are full of fun and humor. The child I read this to kept chiming in with ideas and laughing about the pages of silly animals. It really kept the child engaged with story ideas.

VERDICT: Children will enjoy the process in making the story their own and seeing how the path can change. It sneaks in story creation but the journey will be full of fun. The book itself is a fun adventure, even if the reader isn’t interested in making their own story.

February 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Hello, My Name Is…: How Adorabilis Got His Name, by Marisa Polansky, pictures by Joey Chou

Polansky, Marisa. Hello, My Name Is…: How Adorabilis Got His Name. Pictures by Joey Chou. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780374305062. Unp. Ages 3-7. P7 Q8

In Hello, My Name Is… we follow a cute pink creature as it searches for its name. Along the way, we meet several sea creatures and learn their common names and why they have them. After exploring the pink creature’s many attributes, we learn that it is Adorabilis, a type of flapjack octopus discovered in 2015 by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The animals and scenery in the book are depicted with prominent angles, bright colors, and plenty of contrast. A picture of the actual adorabilis, a brief description of taxonomy, and the history of Opisthoteuthis adorabilis’ discovery and naming are included after the story.

Verdict: This is an informative story about how organisms’ names often reflect their physical attributes or behavior. It would be a great addition to a lesson on sea life; but make sure students realize that some of the creatures in the story live in vastly different environments and would never encounter each other in the wild.

October 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.