Behold the Octopus! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Ever since I learned about the octopus that sneaked out of its tank at night to snack on fish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I’ve had a deep respect for the intelligence of these eight-legged creatures. But I didn’t know how diverse they are, until now…

When I first saw the cover from a distance, I thought it was a photograph. but then I realized that the illustrator had fooled me the way an octopus fools predators—by pretending to be something that it’s not. Image after glorious image, the art in this book is stunning. Bravo!

The author provides a layered narrative, one that’s very high level that works well with younger kids, starting with this brief descriptive sentence and a second layer of expository text that provides more information that can be read by older kids. An adult reading this book to younger kids might decide to paraphrase the additional information:

Text ©Suzanne Slade Illus. ©Thomas Gonzalez

The pages that follow this spread include a single verb: hunting, building (homes), gliding (propulsion), changing (chameleon-like qualities), grasping (suction cups), and hiding (using ink to obscure its getaway). The single words in the second half of the books switch to adjectives: luminous (some emit light), dangerous (One produces venom so dangerous it can kill humans. So if you see a small octopus about the size of a golf ball with blue rings on its body, give it wide berth!), adventurous (one walks between tidepools searching for snacks), and tenacious (mama octopus).

The last two spreads show how mama octopus protects her eggs, essentially starving while waiting for them to hatch. Once that happens. the baby octopuses set off on their (primarily) solitary lives, and the mother dies. The author reassures kids that while an octopus lives a fairly short life, anywhere from six months to five years, it’s a life filled with adventure.

Four pages of back matter show photographs of several species, additional facts, and resources where kids can learn more. This is a terrific introduction to these amazing creatures and their underwater habitats.


Make an origami octopus

Write a concrete poem in the shape of an octopus. Use a giant O as the center body. For each leg extending outward from the O, write a single word or phrase, beginning with C,T,O,P,U,S,E, and S, that describes something about what the octopus eats, how it acts or moves, where it lives, etc.

Watch videos created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium about different kinds of octopuses.

Pair this book with How to Get Your Octopus to School by Becky Scharnhorst, illus. by Jaclyn Sinquett. Compare and contrast the two books. What makes a book a work of fiction vs. nonfiction? How are the two books different? How are they the same? For example, does the illustrator for the fictional story use any realistic octopus characteristics to add humor to the story?

Title: Behold the Octopus!

Author: Suzanne Slade

Illustrator: Thomas Gonzalez

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing, 2023

Ages: Pre-K through elementary school

Themes: octopuses, ocean habitats, animal characteristics

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

13 thoughts on “Behold the Octopus! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    The cover does look like a photograph! I love beautiful books about the natural world. And I have a nephew in Florida who loves books about marine life. Perfect B-day gift. Enjoyed your suggested activities.

  2. Pam Webb says:

    Just read the brilliant Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. A captivating mystery involving a curmudgeonly octopus. And congrats on your latest book!

  3. Becky Scharnhorst says:

    You know how much I love octopuses, so this is a must read for me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it! And thanks for the shout out to How to Get Your Octopus to School!

Please feed the chickens...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.