Review of ‘Obsessive about Octopuses’

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Title: Obsessive about Octopuses
Author + Illustrator: Owen Davey
Publisher: Flying Eye Books (published 2020)
Age Range: early childhood, middle primary, upper primary, adults who love octopuses.
Themes: Octopus ecology, diet, behaviour, movement, camouflage, specialist adaptations.

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Another review by my ever obliging ecologist neighbour, Dr Sam Lloyd. I pass on to her titles that I know will be RIGHT up her alley! Sam is an ecologist and manager for South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium. Sam is also a former dance teacher and a keen consumer of children’s literature and she regularly reviews books for me, you can see all her posts here.


Octopuses are seriously fascinating and impressive creatures and ‘Obsessive about Octopuses’ is an equally fascinating book. Octopuses, together with cuttlefish, nautiluses and squid, are known as ‘cephalopods’. Octopuses are soft bodied marine organisms with large heads and (almost always) eight arms lined with suckers on the underside. There are approximately 300 known species of octopuses found in oceans and marine environments across the world. Octopuses range in size from 2.5cm (the star-sucker pygmy octopus) to approximately five meters (the giant Pacific octopus), they have a beak similar to birds, some are bioluminescent, and they are super smart!

The sixth book in this series from Owen Davey and Flying Eye Books, ‘Obsessive about Octopuses’, is full of beautiful and bold illustrations with an appropriate level of scientific detail and accuracy.  The book is very well laid out and balances the information nicely with the illustrations.  As with ‘Bonkers about Beetles’ (review here) the illustrations drive the book and the information is there to support the pictures and highlight just how amazing these creatures are.  I think this book is a great read for any primary school aged child (or adult really) – unless you are working in the field, or completely across your octopus ecology, you and/or your children will be seriously impressed!  Despite doing some marine ecology at university, I was never naturally drawn to marine research (#terrestrialecologist) – but there is just no denying these captivating creatures deserve our respect and attention.  I really liked that the book also included a section on ‘octopus mythology’ (of which there is lots) and ocean conservation, with some really simple examples of what we can do to help protect our oceans.

My children are six and nine and they really enjoyed the book.  Here are the facts the kids and I were most impressed by:

  • ‘Incirrata’ octopuses (a suborder of octopuses) are famous for escaping enclosures.  Having no skeleton (either internally or externally) they “can squeeze through tiny gaps only slightly larger than their eyeballs”!
  • Octopuses are masters of camouflage – they have specialised skin cells called ‘chromatophores” that their brain controls.  These cells change very quickly so the octopus can better resemble its background.  This is called ‘adaptive camouflage’ (check out the video links below for some examples).
  • Mimic octopuses are able to change their shape, colouring, pattern and behaviour so as to resemble other animals, including the banded sea krait (a type of venomous sea snake) and the venomous lion fish.
  • Octopuses are super intelligent, they can solve puzzles, unscrew the lid off a ‘childproof’ bottle, use tools (some species collect shells and coconut husks and combine them to use as shelter) and have been found to have both short and long-term memory.
  • Baby octopuses are called ‘hatchlings’ (cute!) and one species (Graneledone boreopacifica) was found to have looked after her eggs for 53 months until they hatched! That’s dedication!

Videos, Resources & Further Reading

YouTube: There are so many amazing videos of octopuses, if you search BBC Earth it helps narrow down and we particularly liked these ones:

Octopus in the House: BBC Earth
Wild Bites: BBB Earth Kids

‘Brains On’ Podcast: this brilliant kid’s science podcast has several episodes that include octopuses and related creatures, including:

Queensland Museum: I searched “octopus” and they have loads of links and fact sheets, this one is on the giant squid:

Australian Museum: this link is for the southern blue-lined octopus (a species of blue-ringed octopus), but there are loads of links to other species.

Australian Marine Conservation Society

For more marine and ‘cephalopod’ books and links, check out my reviews of ‘The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon’ and ‘Zobi and the Zoox’.


By the same author:

‘BONKERS ABOUT BEETLES

‘CRAZY ABOUT CATS’

‘FANATICAL ABOUT FROGS’

‘MAD ABOUT MONKEYS’

‘SMART ABOUT SHARKS’

Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking.

Having graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology), 1st Class Honours in 1998 and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006, Sam has worked as an environmental manager for the SEQ regional NRM body; as an entomologist for the Australian and New Zealand Fire Ant Control Programs; and as Coordinator of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program.

Sam’s long-standing daytime gig is as Manager of the South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, with bushfire ecology and awareness being another of her passions.

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