CM . . . . Volume XX Number 8 . . . . October 25, 2013
Author Norma Dixon has written a book of scientific, literary, and pop culture 'facts' about the octopus. Although this book has some weaknesses, it may be worth having a closer look at it if you need more books on endangered or threatened sea creatures.
The book begins with an engaging table of contents. Who can resist chapter headings like "Escape Artists" and "From Egg to End"? Subheadings such as "Smarter than Fido?" and "Chomp! Drill! Pull!" certainly make you want to turn the pages and find out more.
Also included is a useful glossary for the words in bold throughout the text, an index, a list for further reading, an up-to-date bibliography, and a comprehensive list of image credits. In addition, the author has included simple instructions to make two types of toy octopuses.
The layout of the text and accompanying photos and illustrations is attractive, but it is hard to decide where to focus. The two page spread, pages 16-17, for example, includes five coloured photos, four of which are enclosed in magnifying glass shapes, and 11 pink blob shapes of different sizes, one of which contains a brief paragraph of information in bold. One of the photos has a title and three of the other photos have speech bubbles. Across the top is a banner of colour and Chapter 4. The text, organized with a heading and three subheadings, wraps around the photos and blobs filling almost all of the available space on the page. This is a case where a little less might have been better.
The author's style of writing is very personal.
Many interesting facts about octopuses are included from folklore, movies, and scientific research. Younger readers may have some difficulty extracting the information from the complex sentences and lengthy paragraph structures. For example:
The text can also be confusing to interpret. Despite several re-readings, I can't resolve the apparent conflict in this paragraph.
In Deep with the Octopus is filled with interesting information and is worth considering if you need a book about these intelligent and threatened sea creatures. However, the presentation of the information has a few weaknesses, so look at all the alternatives before you decide if this is worth the shelf space in your library.
Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.