My Friend the Octopus

Helen (@helenbyles) –

Britain 1877, a place where aquariums were extremely popular,  especially with the upper class of society. 

They marvelled at all the amazing sea creatures,  but there was one creature that stood out from all the rest. The beautiful Octopus.  An amazing creature that even today fascinates people around the world. 

There is truly no animal like the Octopus,  a Octopus is truly unique with 9 brains, blue blood and thousands of suckers.

In this book, Vinnie is sent to leave with an aunt who works in the teashop of the aquarium. There she meets their latest arrival,  a beautiful Octopus.  A Octopus who will change her life forever. 

She spends more and more time with the creature and discovers a love of drawing.  And finds she will do anything for the Octopus , and she finds out what true courage is.

When we first meet the Octopus we are made to feel as if it is us who has to work out how to move the crate it’s in,  you find yourself on tenterhooks as the characters move the crate, unable to leave the book until the Octopus is safely in its tank.

It’s as though it’s you  tip-toeing around the aquarium with Charlie having a better look.

You find yourself caring for the Octopus and having to keep reading the book to reassure yourself that the Octopus is OK. You feel the pain when the Octopus gets cut during the move.

Of course nowadays aquariums have become sealife/ rescue centres and Octopuses aren’t found there anymore. There are now only a few Octopus held in captivity and these tend to be in America. 

The research that has gone into this book is amazing, when thinking of writing this review I googled aquariums in 1877 and found so much amazing information, it turns out Henry Lee was actually a real person and worked in aquariums. 

He was an interesting person to read about. 

This is a truly brilliant book and Lindsay Galvin is an extraordinary storyteller and I really look forward to her next book.


Sam (@SamJDThomas) –

It is an absolute honour to be a part of the blog tour for Lindsay Galvin’s latest middle grade title, the newly published My Friend the Octopus, which was published by Chicken House on 2nd June. Having read Lindsay’s previous book, Darwin’s Dragons, and utterly delighted in the different perspective her writing offered us on that of Charles Darwin, an infamous explorer, I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news of this latest release.

You can immediately tell from looking at the book’s cover design that something truly special awaits you in this book, and I really hoped it would offer a fresh perspective on something or someone we are all familiar with, because I long to read books that give readers an ‘outside of the box’ viewpoint, something exhilarating whilst keeping an air of familiarity, and something that will inspire you for years to come as a consequence of having the opportunity to read it, and once again Lindsay Galvin has surpassed all my expectations and desires, so much so that this is my must read book of 2022 recommendation, and My Friend the Octopus will remain dear to my heart as one of my all time most enjoyable reads.

We are taken back in time to 1893 to meet the book’s main character, Vinnie, who lives with her mother above the shop they own, and are both evidently very contented in the lifestyle they have, enjoying the companionship of one another whilst Vinnie’s mother sells hats and bonnets of her own designs. Vinnie is always so inspired by her mother’s work, and often sketches design ideas of her own. It comes as a completely unexpected twist early on in the book when Vinnie is woken during the night by her mother, and the two sneak about leaving their home, hiding from someone they know, and taking a train ride together to the seaside town of Brighton. Something is definitely not right, and as the reader not only are you are immediately immersed in this adventure with this pair, you are also trying to work out the relevance of the characters actions, and items referred to as well, such as the necklace Vinnie’s mother briefly shows her daughter as they disembark from the train, and the man who appears to be searching for them.

Vinnie is left to stay with her auntie in Brighton, whilst her mum travels on to Paris for inspiration for her hat designs for the autumn. This was not something that had been planned and discussed, and it leaves Vinnie feeling as though she has been taken away from her home, and that she loved, and abandoned somewhere completely alien to her, and with no one taking into consideration how she feels about it, and the same can be said for the Octopus that arrives at the pier aquarium that Vinnie’s aunt works at. Lindsay Galvin is so descriptive and detailed throughout this book, and the way that the Octopus is caught, transported, and then released into a tank in the aquarium really does make readers aware of the other side of an animal in captivity, that the public go visit in aquariums (also relevant to zoos), and all that they have endured to be there on display.

Vinnie is initially wary of the Octopus, but she soon warms to it, and is intrigued by this magnificent creature of the deep – who wouldn’t be! These sound as though they would be majestic to see up close, and definitely a bit scary. Vinnie finds herself inspired to draw the Octopus, and is really very good at it. Her artistic talent provide her with a way of communicating with the sea creature, and this makes for a truly heart warming read, which still has a mystery at its core that you will be eager to unravel, and utterly captivates you from page to page, chapter after chapter, keeping you intrigued and invested to the very end.

With characters like Vinnie, who is an incredibly polite, clever, talented go getter, and her adventurous friends she makes in Brighton, Charlie and Temitayo, this book will resonate on a personal level with so many children, and with so much information packed inside for fans of sea life creatures and exploration, this really is an utterly brilliant book that epitomises the ‘reading for pleasure’ mantra that us school staff, librarians, and parents desire for children. This would make an absolutely fantastic class read as there is so much that can be discussed and debated, as well as inspiring other activities that link to enjoying the story such as writing letters from Vinnie to her mother when they are apart, or an art project that the Octopus inspires, just like with Vinnie in the book.

Animal conservation is something that has always been extremely important to me, and I know it is essential that the younger generations learn this too, because they will need to carry the torch going forward, and the brilliance of this book, that I truly love, is it gives you the different perspectives of the characters in the book, allows you to draw your own conclusions, and consequently leaves you feeling an emotional connection to both the animal and human characters in the book – one of equal love and respect.

You can get your hands on a copy of this stellar read from all good booksellers now, and for further insight and information do check out the other stops on the blog tour via the information on the banner below.

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