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Friday, November 30, 2018

Love Agnes: Postcards From An Octopus. Written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Thea Baker. Millbrook Press, Lerner. Thomas Allen & Son. 2018. $29.99 ages 5 and up

"Agnes rolled her eyes.
She still knew how to do
a thing or two. She jetted
superfast across a current.
When a dogfish followed
too close, she blasted it
with a cloud of ink.

When the color cleared, what
did she see floating by?"

In keeping with yesterday's post about letter writing and using it to express feelings, I want to tell you about Irene Latham's newest book. It is the story of a giant Pacific octopus and is shared in a series of postcards, beginning with one that annoys Agnes. She responds immediately to Andrew's opening shot. It is addressed to him at Above the Waves, California and says:

"Dear Andrew,

Just because I have a beak
that can crush bones and
arms that stretch as wide
as a car does NOT make
me a monster. I'm a mollusk,
okay? Look it up.

Annoyed Agnes"

It is a while before Agnes hears from Andrew again. In the meantime, she does receive postcards from denizens of the deep who have opinions and observations to share. Another younger octopus is rude and up for a fight. A crab is happy to have avoided her arms and suckers. Then, there is another from Andrew that furthers annoys. Her second response sets them on a new path. Others postcards are written to her eggs, to her babies, and to the world at large.

Through it all, we learn  a great deal about the octopus in an ingenious, informative text that is written alongside the set of postcards. There are clear facts provided concerning the care she provides for her eggs, the changes in her own being as time passes and she awaits the hatching and quick departure of all those babies, and her own gentle demise.

Before she goes, she has a message for the world:

"Dear World,

What a life, what a place! I have friends
above the waves!
And now I must
say goodbye ...
GOODBYE! Don't worry, the end
is not at all like I thought it
would be. (You'll see.)


Agnes Octopus"

Collage, acrylic paint, and digital illustrations by Thea Baker are filled with the colors of the deep, and are textural and attractive. Children will want to pore over them to be sure they miss nothing about this amazing creature. Backmatter provides engaging facts and offers a list of books for further reading.

This book is one that I classify as faction with young readers: it contains both facts and story. It is also wise in the ways of the world, and a celebration of life! What a gift at Christmas for a reader who loves learning new information mixed with a well-told story, humor, and told in a way that is new and refreshing! Checks a lot of boxes, doesn't it?

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