Friday, August 9, 2013

How the Octopus Got Eight Arms by Yyonne Arroyo

How the Octopus Got Eight Arms by Yyonne Arroyo, illustrated by Carl Wanzung is an imaginative  new children's story.  This full color picture book is reminiscent of a traditional folk tale as it tells the story of how the octopus went from having only two arms to eight arms.  The story is written in rhyme which will capture the attention of young children.  I feel that parents who read this book to their children may be skeptical of a story depicting an interspecies marriage between an octopus and shark, resulting in eight offspring- a mix of 4 sharks and 4 octopi and of a two legged sea creature that has a surgery to artificially implant six more arms. True, this children's story is absolutely nonsensical- but young children won't care about that. I feel that children will find this story entertaining.

This may not be the author's intent, but this book inadvertently depicts a message about popular socio-political topics such as  marriage equality, parenthood and reproduction.   This story may raise questions about reproduction which some parents may not be prepared to answer.   Although this might not be intentional- this book may be seen as promoting marriage equality,  not just the traditional marriage,  with the depiction of interspecies marriage.  On the other hand, this book might be also be perceived as both perpetuating and challenging aspects of the traditional male/ female roles in a marriage. For example, the shark wife cooking in the kitchen, spending the day preparing a meals for her husband and having children shortly after the wedding, reinforces traditional male- female roles. Yet, the octopus father, taking on child care of the eight children shows a modern view of parenthood in which the male shares the role of child rearing.

 The original illustrations- reminiscent of a grade schooler's artwork in crayon- will appeal to very young children. The pictures are colorful, bold, expressive and distorted all at the same time. The unique expressive art depicts a frazzled, passed out octopus dad at the end of the day after caring for his eight kids.  The illustrator captures the emotions of a frightened, blood -shot- eyed octopus, as he is force fed a medicinal green liquid and prepped for surgery in a sterile OR as six "artificial" limbs await nearby on a table. The triumphant, well adjusted eight legged octopus greatly contrasts with the stressed anxious dad in the start of the book.

 One notable discrepancy is that the cartoon styled cover art does not match the interior illustrations.  Based on the cover art, one would expect consistent cartoon illustrations in the interior of the book which is not the case.  The cartoon artwork style depicted on the cover would have been more suitable for use throughout this book for this aquatic tale.  Apparently, the publisher, Outskirts press produced the cover artwork.  The author and illustrator name on the cover is somewhat obscured by the cover font which is difficult read.  The font works well for the bold title but not so much for the smaller sized printing used for the author name. I had to look at the interior copyright text to ensure I had the correct spelling of the author and illustrator.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of writing this review.

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