My niece and nephew (now 27 and 29) have always called me the "book aunt." They knew that I might give other gifts, but I would definitely give them a book for every birthday and Christmas. And believe you me, these weren't just any books. I would spend months and months searching for the absolutely perfect Christmas present. For my nephew, the book had to include an element of nonfiction. It had to have a unique format. It had to have great illustrations. It had to be a little funny.
This year, I would not have any trouble choosing that book for my nephew. He would definitely be getting Irene Latham's newest, LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS. Agnes is a great Pacific Octopus, who lives under a northwestern coastal pier. When the book opens, she's searching for a home. She finds a lovely bottle (which actually ends up being another octopus' home), but there's a postcard blocking the entrance. And so begins a series of postcard exchanges between Agnes and a variety of recipients- little boy named John Henry, another octopus, McKenzie, some crabs, her eggs, and ultimately the world.
Each two-page spread includes one page of narrative, and one postcard. The postcards are fun, silly, and also full of information. Listen to this one:
In case you can't read it in the picture:
Dear Andrew,Just because I have a beakthat can crush bones andarms that stretch as wideas a car does NOT makeme a monster. I’m a mollusk,okay? Look it up.
Sincerely, Annoyed Agnes
The text and postcards are fun, but this is also a book that's factually accurate. Throughout the course of the book, I learned that octopuses:
- have a beak that can crush bones, arms as wide as a car, and three hearts
- hatch up to one hundred thousand eggs
- spend six months taking care of their eggs
- die shortly after the eggs hatch
If there's not enough information included in the text, end matter includes "More About Octopuses," as well as a list of further reading and websites.
The bright-colored, joyful illustrations are also sure to delight. Thea Baker is an English artist (currently living in Australia). Her illustrations remind me, in some ways, of Eric Carle. Not only are they eye-catching, however, they are also accurate, right down to Agnes' rectangular pupils. I hope we will see lots more of her work...
Add this book to your Christmas list! It's sure to be a hit!