Octopus Alone

illus. by author. 40p. Viking. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78515-5. LC 2012029678.
PreS-Gr 2—As she did in last year's sweetly graphic Little Owl's Night (Viking, 2011), Srinivasan again produces a visually appealing story of a young animal finding its way in the big wide world. In this case, a bashful, doe-eyed orange octopus ventures away from home to escape the friendly enthusiasm of three seahorses. Charmingly stylized sea creatures (helpfully labeled in the delightful endpapers) float through an aqua-and-purple waterscape with an occasionally confusing perspective that renders the seahorses tiny on one page and larger than our timid heroine on the next. Reserved or introspective children may sympathize with the octopus, who employs authentic octopus tricks like camouflaging her color and squirting ink at the boisterous trio before escaping to deeper waters; even more readers could benefit from a reminder that not everyone always wants to play. But the narrative does not quite cohere and the paean to shyness gets lost in marine diversions: drifting jellyfish, an attacking eel, a breaching whale that earns a gatefold. After restoring herself with quiet and a solo jig, the octopus wishes for companionship and the text concludes that she is "glad to be back with her friends." Once readers realize that the seahorses she avoided, fled, and squirted are her friends, this final line provides a pleasant resolution as well as gentle encouragement for the bashful among us to dip a toe-or tentacle-into the ocean of sociability.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

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