A small yellow octopus is nonplussed to return home from his daily swim to find someone else’s tale protruding from his home.
The soft and expressive illustrations done in acrylic and oil pastels by van Hout (Surprise, 2014, etc.) are the highlight of what could have been a noteworthy story about the pitfalls of jumping to conclusions. Flitting among his concerned friends, an endearingly expressive octopus searches for a solution to the very big intruder stuck in his doorway. The fishy suggestions run the gamut from “Chase him away!” to “Declare war on him.” As the story unfolds, the problem of what to do with the giant tail sticking out of Octopus’ home involves every sea creature in the neighborhood. After much deliberation, the little octopus hears whispered advice in the depths around him. “What would you do?” The sea seems to be urging him to listen to his intuition—which he does to his ultimate delight. Van Lieshout and van Os explore the extreme reactions fear and uncertainty can elicit. As is so often the case, a simple question could have prevented the escalating misunderstanding and turmoil. What makes the resolution unsatisfactory is that an entire scene seems to be missing—the reveal. One minute the friends struggle to pull out the mysterious tale à la “The Enormous Turnip,” and the next, there’s a smiling mermaid holding the besotted octopus. “ ‘Oh,’ Octopus blushed. ‘If I’d only known you were a lady! That’s different!’ ”
This Dutch import’s fatuous ending falls short, but the illustrations are worth the time spent appreciating them. (Picture book. 4-6)