The Benefits of Being an Octopus
Sky Pony Press
Ann Braden's realistic portrayal of her protagonists' struggle to get through the day really helped me to remember that all of us find life challenging and that we need to remember to look for those in our classes that could use our belief and support in their abilities. I immediately related to Zoey and wished I could help her as she seemed to have many more responsibilities placed on her then a grade 7 student should have to deal with. Reading this novel has encouraged me to be more aware of the lives my students are leading and thinking about how to support them when they come to class.
This would make a great read aloud for grade 5+ as it would help to bring some interesting classroom discussions around social justice and poverty. I couldn't help to think that Zoey's determination and perseverance reminded me a lot of Felix from Susin Nielsen's novel, No Fixed Address. Although the protagonists of these two novels live in different countries, the complications of poverty are portrayed in a honest and empathetic way. Both books would work well together in a class to help students see themselves and to perhaps see the lives of some of their classmates to further develop empathy among all of us.