Cowboy and Octopus
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Cowboy and Octopus

3.2 4
by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith

Peanut butter and jelly. George and Martha. Frog and Toad. Cowboy and . . . Octopus? Yes, that’s right. Meet Cowboy and Octopus—the next great pair to become a household name. Cowboy likes beans’n’bacon and bacon’n’beans. Octopus eats raw seafood. Octopus prefers knock-knock jokes, but Cowboy doesn’t get them. How will


Peanut butter and jelly. George and Martha. Frog and Toad. Cowboy and . . . Octopus? Yes, that’s right. Meet Cowboy and Octopus—the next great pair to become a household name. Cowboy likes beans’n’bacon and bacon’n’beans. Octopus eats raw seafood. Octopus prefers knock-knock jokes, but Cowboy doesn’t get them. How will these two ever be friends?

Illustrated in funky, vintage-style cut-outs and told in several humorous mini-stories, the famous Stinky Cheese Man duo of Scieszka and Smith have created sweet—and of course hilarious—tales of an unlikely friendship.

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Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
. . . surprisingly fresh, and genuinely funny.

Elizabeth Ward
If there is a more inventive duo at work in the picture-book field than Scieszka and Smith, co-creators of such gems as The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, I can't name it. The pair strikes gold again with this portrait in seven scenes of a very odd friendship. Not that kids will think a cowboy befriending an octopus is odd. That's the way they play.
—The Washington Post
Children's Literature
The very odd couple, Octopus and Cowboy, meet and find that “Some things work better with a friend.” A seesaw, for example. Shaking hands, however, takes a while, since Octopus has eight. Communication suffers when Cowboy takes Octopus's instructions too literally. When Cowboy surprises Octopus by making him dinner, unfortunately Octopus does not like Cowboy's favorite beans and bacon. But being his friend, Octopus tries to enjoy one bean at least. The friends share “scary” Halloween costumes, misunderstandings about knock-knock jokes, and honest opinions about their new hats. The silly fun supports the notion of the strange friendship. Smith continues to try out new media. This nonsense tale is visualized using a variety of collage objects. On the title page a pair of plastic scissors cuts out a “Western Heroes” paper doll; the multi-armed friend has been cut from a comic book. These figures remain constant through the seven episodes, for which titles have been constructed from cut-out letters. Other pictures, papers, and photographs are assembled to provide the contexts. Wispy orange clouds and a big yellow sun are cut from paper for background; a checkerboard tablecloth displays the plates of beans. Half of the endpapers display brands for cattle in brown on tan for the Cowboy; seashells on blue fill the other half for the Octopus. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 1-5
Picture-book readers meet an unlikely pair of friends here: a refined octopus and a cowboy who is a little rough around the edges. The two are actually paper cutouts: the title page reveals that Cowboy has been snipped from a Western Heroes paper-doll book and Octopus from a comic strip. Seven hilarious short stories are presented, beginning with the origin of the friendship, in which Cowboy is confused about a teeter-totter that doesn't seem to work until Octopus "repairs" it by sitting on the opposite end, and concluding with the pair gazing into the sunset of a picture postcard. All of the vignettes are silly and perfectly absurd; Scieszka captures a childlike dialogic cadence and ends the pieces with the sudden, agreeable solutions to problems that kids often come up with. Incorporating mid-20th-century illustrations, graphic art, newspaper clippings, and toys, the collage and mixed-media artwork perfectly matches the wacky text. The colors are slightly muted and the paper appears to have yellowed with age. The delightful paper protagonists never change poses, though Smith occasionally dresses them in zany paper hats and silly costumes, and their static nature adds to the humor. Share this title with devotees of Scieszka's and Smith's other collaborations and with fans of Mini Grey's Traction Man Is Here! (Knopf, 2005). Cowboy and Octopus prove that we all get by with a little help from our friends.
—Shawn BrommerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.30(w) x 10.30(h) x 0.30(d)
AD350L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 5 Years


Meet the Author

Multiple award-winning author Jon Scieszka grew up in Flint, Michigan, the second oldest and the nicest of six boys. Jon went to school at Culver Military Academy in Indiana where he was a Lieutenant; Albion College in Michigan where he studied to be a doctor; and Columbia University in New York, where he received an M.F.A. in fiction. He taught elementary school in New York for ten years in a variety of positions. He is the author of many books for children including the New York Times Best Illustrated Book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (illustrated by Lane Smith), the Caldecott Honor book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (illustrated by Lane Smith), and Math Curse (illustrated by Lane Smith).  In addition to his work as an author, Jon also runs a web-based literacy program called “Guys Read” that is designed to encourage boys, particularly reluctant readers, to get involved with books. In 2008, Jon was named the country’s first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a joint effort of the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council. During his two-year role as Ambassador, he acted as a spokesperson for children’s literature, speaking to groups of parents, teachers, and children to encourage the importance of reading. You can visit Jon online at

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Cowboy and Octopus 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
SJKessel More than 1 year ago
Scieszka, J. & Smith, L. (2007). Cowboy & Octopus. New York: Viking. 9780670910588 Appetizer: This my few but dear readers, is an EPIC 32-page, emotional, fun and angsty humorous look at an unlikely friendship between Cowboy and Octopus. Scieszka and Smith are masters of the funny and weird. I don't know how they do it. Keep doing it. Over and over again. But through strange and unusual images and styles, repetitive language that touches on real childhood experiences, they manage to create one work of art after another. Cowboy and Octopus is concerned with the nature of friendship, first focusing on how this odd pair became friends and how they helped, supported and even forgave one another. While the book could easily be a read aloud for one sitting with kindergartners or first graders, the picture book can also be split up into short stories that would be perfect for kids to read individually with a teacher. (There are some complicated words throughout the book, probably too many for wee little ones--"Octopus," "lettuce," "Halloween," etc. AN ADULT IS NEEDED at least for the first few reads.) Also, since I just mentioned the vocabulary, it's also worth noting that there are a few Spanish words (loco, adios, amigos). This could either become a picturebook to use to help Spanish speakers feeling represented or as a teaching moment to help children learn a few Spanish words. Either way, it makes me happy. Dinner Conversation: "Cowboy meets Octopus." "Octopus says, "Some things work better with a friend."" ""You wanna be friends?" says Cowboy. "Certainly," says Octopus. So Cowboy and Octopus shake hands..." ""I cooked all my favorites just for you," says Cowboy. "Beans and bacon, Bacon and Beans, and just plain beans...with a little bit of bacon." "Oh my," says Octopus. Octopus doesn't like beans. He doesn't like bacon." To Go with the Meal: Aside from encouraging an enjoyment of reading, this picturebook also shows the importance of friendship and that it can develop between unlikely buddies (or even creatures!). Plus, it gives a good idea of how to make a friend on the playground for wee little kids who are nervous about starting at preschool or kindergarten. Speaking of friends, Scieszka and Smith have had quite the successful and extensive writing-illustrating partnership. A teacher could just mention their partnership friendship to encourage students to read some of their other collaborations (The Stinky Cheese Man and Squids Will Be Squids being some of the most well known). But a teacher could also share how Scieszka and Smith have both also worked on their own projects individually, how sometimes friendships work best when the friends can enjoy being alone as well as together. In response to the story, students could create their own friendship stories using magazine cut outs to make the illustrations, following Smith's style. They could also share all the knock-knock jokes they know, their own plans (or previous) Halloween costumes While I firmly believe Cowboy and Octopus could appeal to both girls and boys, it would be a good book to try to encourage reluctant male readers to pick up books since cowboys and octopi could be of particular interest to them. Tasty Rating: !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first time you read this book it will be somewhat shocking for a children's book because it is so different from any book that is out there. With that said, it is a very funny and refreshing book that will be enjoyed not only by the child but by the parent.