Pitcher (The Snow Whale) and Mistry (Stories from the Silk Road) teach readers about the life cycle of an elusive ocean-dweller in this agreeable story of a boy with a pet octopus. Set in what appears to be Greece, the book opens as Nico spies "an alien" in a fisherman's net: "It had rays of pink light streaming out behind it." Readers may be disappointed that the marvelous apparition can only be glimpsed within Mistry's realistic, full-spread rendering of a small Mediterranean dock. But a few spreads later, he offers a detailed view of the octopus in a bucket of sea water, which Nico uses to sneak the creature home. Kids will be intrigued by the octopus's behavior, as Pitcher describes how it can change color, recognize Nico, separate crab meat from the shell and so on. When the octopus stops eating (and finally "collapse[s] like a broken umbrella"), Nico is heartbroken until an old fisherman diagnoses the problem: the octopus has laid eggs. While the plot is a bit contrived, it packs a lot of easy-to-assimilate information, and the airy illustrations allow-and invite-plenty of close-up inspections. An endnote rounds out readers' understanding of the sea creature. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Gr 1-4-This beautifully illustrated story conveys basic information about octopuses. Young Nico finds a live octopus in a fisherman's net and carries her home in a bucket. He makes a home for the creature in an aquarium in his room, where her relative solitude seems to agree with her. Eventually, however, she begins to act strangely, and it doesn't take long for Nico to find out why: she has laid her eggs in her den, and will soon die. The story ends with the boy carrying his pet to the sea in a small velvet-lined box and then releasing her babies into the ocean after her. Pitcher includes a brief epilogue about the evolution and biology of these fascinating animals. Mistry's resplendent illustrations, done in muted, watery hues, provide effective close-up depictions of this intriguing sea creature. An engaging and informative storyhour selection.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.