Nyeu’s latest contains four stories about the relationship between two eccentric sea creatures.
When Squid knits socks for his multiple limbs and Octopus tells him they wear mittens, not socks, the buddies argue. Next, Squid is sad to have lost the X-ray vision bestowed while dreaming—and his status as “Super Squid.” His friend convinces him that he remains special. Octopus then mistakes a cowboy boot for a hat; finally, the duo reads a fortune about everlasting friendship—the most successful story of the lot. While Nyeu’s swirling silkscreens, executed in a controlled palette of blues, greens, oranges and yellows, present flora and fauna in magical, decorative compositions, her verbal narrative falls short. The conflicts and dialogues, for the most part, do not ring true. Why wouldn’t Squid know about mittens, if those are what they always wear? When Octopus cheers Squid up after his dream, the conversation sounds more like an unnaturally cheery adult talking to a child than two close friends. The characters’ emotional range is limited. Side comments of secondary characters don’t add much in the way of humor or interest. Arnold Lobel, James Marshall and Mo Willems each created famous odd couples by pairing verbal restraint with nuanced facial expressions, universal feelings with understated affection. There is something to be learned from these models.
Long on design; short on story. (Picture book. 4-6)