cover image The Octopus Escapes

The Octopus Escapes

Maile Meloy, illus. by Felicita Sala. Putnam, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-984812-69-8

In a straightforward picture book debut by Meloy (the Apothecary series), a red-orange octopus is “happy in his cave,” until a human, portrayed as a pale hand, tricks the cephalopod into occupying a glove and subsequently takes him to “a glass house that wasn’t a cave.” Though the octopus is offered interactive tests and activities—including building blocks, a jar to unscrew, tight passages to navigate, and a camera to photograph visitors to his aquarium home—his days lack differentiation, and the pining octopus soon devises an intrepid plan to return home. The sympathetic prose is rhythmic, allowing readers to see the octopus’s perspective at every step of the process: of the glass house, “There were no waves. No little shivery ones. No big tumbling ones.” Sala (Green on Green) contributes vibrant art rendered in gouache, watercolor, and pastel on paper; particularly effective are spreads of the sinuous subject’s ocean life, with its richly varied flora and fauna. The Finding Nemo–esque adventure follows a predictable arc, but the tender narrative is gratifying and may serve as an effective jumping-off point for discussions about animal captivity. Ages 3–7. (May)