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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always, written and illustrated by tao nyeu. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2012. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"They decided that Wise Old Turtle could settle their quarrel. "Wise Old Turtle, do we wear socks or mittens when it's chilly?" asked Squid. "Nonsense," said Wise Old Turtle. "When it's chilly, we wear scarves and earmuffs."

 Ah, short stories that appeal to little ones while also packing a bit of a social punch for older readers. The best thing about each of them is the power of friendship to change our perceptions about ourselves and about the world at large.

In four stories we get to know both Squid and Octopus...a lot about their abilities at being good friends and a little about themselves. We also slyly meet some of those who share their ocean habitat, and are who are only too willing offer advice or comment. As anyone who has a friend knows, it's not always easy. At times, we give over an argument to achieve peace. At other times, a helpful and non-biased suggestion helps us see the issue in a different light. No matter what, friends stand together and support each other.

That is just what happens with our two new friends. They quarrel, they empower, they laugh and compromise, and they worry together. Each short story allows readers to see one solution to the dilemma faced, and offers a new way to consider looking for that solution.  The narration is just right to keep readers turning the pages in hopes of resolution. Sweet and natural, there are no contrivances here to teach or ensure compliance. Children are left to decide for themselves how they would deal with their own friends.

The illustrations are fashioned in a palette akin to the watery depths of the, yellow, green and a few dashes of orange. The dream in the second story is encased in a deep sea blue with loopy edges and boasts a lift-the-flap that adds a touch of celebration. I love the many little asides provided by other creatures of the deep as the two friends find common ground within each story.

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