Even the most totally awesome story starts with a little bit of nothing. What happens next is up to you! A delightfully meta picture book that will set imaginations soaring.
It begins with an octopus who plays the ukulele. Since this is a story, the octopus has to want something—maybe to travel to faraway galaxies in a totally awesome purple spaceship. Then the octopus sets out to build a spaceship out of soda cans, glue, umbrellas, glitter, and waffles. OK, maybe the octopus needs some help, like from an adorable bunny friend, and maybe that bunny turns out to be . . . a rocket scientist? (Probably not.) But could something even more amazing come to pass? Debut author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, with the help of illustrator Benji Davies, sets up an endearingly funny story, then hands the baton to readers, who will be more than primed to take it away.
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Maggie Tokuda-Hall has an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco and a tendency to spill things. As a longtime children’s bookseller she has read her fair share of stories, and she is always hungry for more. Her favorite animal is an octopus, or else an elephant. Maggie Tokuda-Hall lives in San Francisco.
Benji Davies is the award-winning author-illustrator of many books for children, including the Bizzy Bear series. Benji Davies lives in London.
PreS-Gr 3—"Every story starts the same way...with nothing." So begins this picture book, which doubles as an encouraging exercise in story development. Moving on from nothing, the narrator says that every story needs a character, and after presenting a couple of possibilities (a little girl, a bunny), it settles on an octopus who plays the ukulele. From there, the narrator explores the concept of plot: "But in order for it to be a story, and not just an octopus, that octopus needs to want something." This particular octopus wants a spaceship, a complicated desire that sets the stage for plenty of comedy and the introduction of more characters (including the girl, the bunny, and some rocket scientists). The bubbly, appealing art has punchy humor and works as an ongoing conversation with the narration, bringing the fumbling but exciting progress of crafting a new story to life. As the book ends, the visuals move the plot in a multitude of new directions, but the text leaves everything open-ended, concluding with encouragement for readers to take it from there. The final page shows one of the rocket scientists wielding a wrench and sporting a colander on her head as she rides a water-skiing rhinoceros off the right-hand page into whatever new plot readers can dream up for her. VERDICT This entertaining read-aloud will jump-start imaginations and create opportunities for thinking about existing tales as well as for making new ones.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
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