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The Benefits of Being an Octopus: A Novel by…
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The Benefits of Being an Octopus: A Novel (edition 2021)

by Ann Braden (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2471285,923 (4.26)2
NPR Best Book of 2018, Bank Street List for Best Children's Books of 2019, Named to the Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher List, Maine's Student Book Award List, Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Award List, Rhode Island Middle School Book Award 2020 List, 2020 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Nominee, 2021 South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2020-2021 Truman Award​ (Missouri) Nominee, Middle School Virginia Readers' Choice Titles for 2020-2021​. Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend--they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer. At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses. Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom's relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had? This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.… (more)
Member:Ella_reese
Title:The Benefits of Being an Octopus: A Novel
Authors:Ann Braden (Author)
Info:Sky Pony (2021), 312 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

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» See also 2 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Honestly one of the most engaging and eye opening middle grade books I've ever read. Perfect for getting young minds to either think about those who have to struggle to make ends meet or it's a mirror for others to see that they aren't alone. Seventh grader Zoey doesn't have time for homework or crushes or other fun middle school things - she's barely making ends meet. She has to take care of her three younger siblings every day after school while her mom works and it doesn't leave her much time to be a kid. Changing diapers, soothing tears, giving baths - it's exhausting - but when you're stuck in a cycle of poverty you have to do anything and everything to stay afloat. She wished she could be an octopus so she had eight arms to do eight things at once, plus they have great protective defenses. But she's at least grateful that they live in a clean trailer with her mom's boyfriend - but even though they live somewhere "nice" they have to put up with a lot of mean things from the owner. A story of finding your voice, gaining confidence, overpowering the odds, and not judging those who are trying their best. A great book about empathy. ( )
  ecataldi | Nov 18, 2021 |
This was an emotionally taxing listen. Zoey has a lot of responsibility in her life caring for her siblings. It definitely impact her life as a student. Her mom's boyfriend has a nice trailer, but she wonders what is happening to her mom. Zoey gets some tough love and encouragement from her social studies teacher who asks her what kind of life she wants, what kind of person she wants to be - questions that Zoey never previously considered.
Zoey finds her voice and helps her mom question her choices. The family has a stable place to live, but the situation is taking its tool.
Zoe is a character to root for! ( )
  ewyatt | Sep 20, 2021 |
This book gave me ALL the feels, and I don't know how I missed it in my middle school book roundup but it is going on the next one. It's an important book in that it will let some children feel represented and understood, and hopefully will afford empathy to others who are not in this situation. It is heartbreaking, challenging, empathetic, and full of grace.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus touches on both non-violent abuse - emotional abuse- and living in poverty. The topic is handled gracefully and carefully and sends a clear message that emotional abuse IS abuse. It also represents the struggles of students living in poverty beyond just the obvious.

Zoey is a strong, mature character - perhaps a bit too mature at times, but she has been through plenty to make her grow up fast. Her best friend Fuchsia faces equally challenging situations.

The heaviness is countered by Zoey's imagination. Her favorite animal is the octopus, and she imagines being an octopus with 8 arms would be helpful in accomplishing all that she needs to do. I also loved that a teacher saw something more in Zoey and encouraged (pushed) her into joining the debate club - which led to much of the revelations she experiences. This book celebrates all the difference a perceptive and caring teacher can make in the life of a child.

I know I'm not doing this book justice by this review - it was heartbreaking and lovely at the same time, truly moving, and beautifully written.
This is a book to be read by children and adults alike, and will likely generate interesting conversations.

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  jenncaffeinated | Jul 4, 2021 |
Pages: 260

Genre: realistic fiction, middle grade

Release date: 4. september 2018

My thoughts
Rafting out of five: four stars



I did not realize this was a debut novel, that’s even more impressing. This book says it’s important, and it’s right. It’s about one girl, Zoey’s, experience and daily life, the struggles she goes through as she’s taking care of her siblings, trying to survive school and making tough choices.

This book talks about how some children are forced into adulthood earlier than others with the amount of resposibilities they have. There’s a gap between kids who have a different amount of support at home, like having healthy food prepared for them, help with homework, not having to worry about family’s financial situaiton, that shapes so much what their experiences are like and what amount of stresses and stability they have in other aspects of their life, like school. This book communicates that in a very direct, but appropriate way. It has a language that works both for adults and kids. It shows Zoey experience in hopes that more stories of kids like her will be told, increasing empathy and the discussion with them.

The octopuses (thank you for not forcing me to read octopi over and over it’s not as fun) are a really fun and heartbreaking way to convey Zoey’s emotions and thoughts going through things. I appreciated all the facts, being a nerd, and the method of process it brought her. Something that confused me was reading Zoey’s thoughts and trying to match them with the reflective opinions and conclusions she draws. She noticed things that the other classmates don’t, like Silas stopping talking and why, and has suddenly can debate gun reform from both views. And that’s not major things, but I got this feeling that I never saw the process behind developments like that.

Debates at school is tough when you’re more invested in it personally and sits on more “insider” details than others who are debating for the sake of it, because that’s basically the task. I thought it was relatable the way Zoey’s hands were shaking and she had to find her courage. It was pretty obvious that the author chose the gun reform subject because of own interest, it did not quite match with the rest of the book.

What I was feeling reading this book: sad, but mostly proud, for kids like Zoey and thinking back on other now nearly adults I know raising their siblings and having those invisible struggles

Thank you to the publisher for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exhange of an honest review. ( )
  aquapages | Jul 8, 2020 |
It was a good, interesting story, and it was well-written. I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would because it was a little heavy for me. ( )
  book_lady15 | Apr 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ann Bradenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bentley, Amy MelissaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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NPR Best Book of 2018, Bank Street List for Best Children's Books of 2019, Named to the Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher List, Maine's Student Book Award List, Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Award List, Rhode Island Middle School Book Award 2020 List, 2020 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Nominee, 2021 South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2020-2021 Truman Award​ (Missouri) Nominee, Middle School Virginia Readers' Choice Titles for 2020-2021​. Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend--they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer. At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses. Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom's relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had? This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

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