Squid and Company


Cephalopods, real and imaginary, pop up in an array of literature, from Game of Thrones to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (in which a giant cephalopod attacks a submarine named for a cephalopod). H.P. Lovecraft’s all-powerful Cthulhu is a part-octopus-like god with tentacles, first appearing in 1928 in the creepy short story The Call of Cthulhu. The wicked witch in the film version of The Little Mermaid is Ursula, an octopus; and Finding Nemo features a pink flapjack octopus named Pearl. Germany’s late Paul the Octopus was famed for predicting the winners in international soccer matches.

Cephalopod Awareness Days come around every year from October 8-12. In fact, each of the days is devoted to a different type of cephalopod: October 8 is Octopus Day; the 9th is Nautilus Night; the 10th, Squid and Cuttlefish Day; the 11th celebrates the kraken and other legendary cephalopods; and the 12th is the day for cephalopods now gone, such as the extinct ammonites.


 imgres In Kevin Sherry’s I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean (Dial, 2010), an electric-blue giant squid boasts that he’s bigger than everything in sight. Then he’s swallowed by a whale. (But he’s the biggest thing in the whale.) For ages 3-6.
 imgres-1 Tao Nyeu’s Squid and Octopus (Dial, 2012) is a collection of four stories about a pair of quirky undersea friends (plus a larger caste of watery characters) who bicker about how best to keep tentacles warm (mittens or socks) and debate the fashion sense of wearing a cowboy boot on one’s head. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-2 I love Jon Scieszka. I love Lane Smith. Their collaboration in Squids Will be Squids (Puffin, 2003) is a wacky and hilarious take on Aesopian fables. (Warning: there’s a really sad squid.) For ages 8-12.
 imgres-3 In Julie Gardner Berry’s Splurch Academy (for Disruptive Boys) series – set in a boarding school taught by monsters – The Trouble with Squids (Grosset & Dunlap, 2007) finds the kids trying to escape via a hidden swimming pool that turns out to be populated by evil squids. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-4 In Greg van Eekhout’s Kid vs. Squid (Bloomsbury, 2010), Thatcher Hill (the kid), sent to spend a summer helping his Uncle Griswold run the Museum of the Strange and Curious on an oceanside boardwalk , meets the mysterious Shoal (who pinches a witch’s head in a box) and becomes involved in the world of lost Atlantis. And there’s an evil squid. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-5 Adam Blade’s Zepha the Monster Squid (Scholastic, 2008) is one of the Beast Quest series (Beast Quest #1: Ferno the Fire Dragon). (See here for the series in order.) Tom, the 12-year-old hero, is trying to release the beasts who once protected the land of Avantia from enchantment. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-6 In Roland Smith’s adventure-packed Tentacles (Scholastic, 2011), Marty lives with his uncle, the famous cryptozoologist Travis Wolfe, and Travis’s daughter Grace. In this, the second of a series, all set off on board the Coelacanth in search of the giant squid. Also along for the ride: a chimpanzee, a trio of bottle-nosed dolphins, Laurel Lee – a circus acrobat turned anthropologist, and, of course, in pursuit, an unscrupulous villain. For ages 9-13.
 imgres-7 Brian Kesinger’s Walking Your Octopus: A Guide to the Domesticated Cephalopod (Baby Tattoo Books, 2013) is a clever and hilarious instruction manual for octopus-owners., as Victorian-era Victoria Psismall copes with her pet octopus, Otto. For all ages.
 imgres-8 Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – first translated into English in 1873 – is now available in many editions, including simplified versions for kids. The story of Captain Nemo, his submarine the Nautilus, and the fearsome kraken – giant squid? – never wears thin. The full text is available online for free at The Literature Network.
The Disney movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) stars James Mason and Kirk Douglas.


 images-1 Jennifer Dussling’s Giant Squid: Mystery of the Deep (Penguin Young Readers, 1999) is a good pick for young non-fiction fans. All about the giant squid for ages 4-7.
 imgres-9 Shirley Raye Redmond’s Tentacles (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2003) – a Step Into Reading book – is a catchy non-fiction account of the giant squid for ages 6-8.
 imgres-10 By Mary Jo Rhodes and David Hall, Octopuses and Squid (Children’s Press, 2006) is a nice basic scientific introduction, illustrated with great color photographs. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-11 By HP Newquist, Here There Be Monsters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) is a beautifully designed and illustrated account of the legendary kraken and Architeuthis dux, the giant squid. A great mix of literature, legend, history, and science for ages 9-12.
 imgres-12 Mary Cerullo and Clyde Roper’s Giant Squid (Capstone Press, 2012) is the exciting story of the giant squid and the quest to track it down, packed with historical engravings and color photos. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-13 For committed squid enthusiasts, Wendy Williams’s Kraken (Abrams, 2011) is a reader-friendly coverage of “The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid.” A cool read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-14 By Richard Ellis, The Search for the Giant Squid (Penguin Books, 1999) is a fascinating overview of the biology and mythology of one of the great mysteries of the sea. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-15 From the University of California Museum of Paleontology, see Cephalopoda for detailed information about cephalopods and their evolutionary history. The site has diagrams, photographs, and some fascinating hyperlinked fun facts.
 images-4 The Cephalopod Page has information on octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, and nautiluses, a photo gallery, informational articles, and detailed illustrated lesson plans, among them “Color Change in Cephalopods” and “Cephalopod Vision.”
From The New Yorker, The Squid Hunter is the story of marine biologist Steve O’Shea’s quest for the giant squid.
From the Smithsonian magazine, The Giant Squid: Dragon of the Deep is a short history of sightings of the squid, the creature most likely to have been the inspiration for the legendary kraken.
From the Discovery Channel, see the first ever Video of a Giant Squid in its natural habitat.
 images-3 Octopus vs. Squid – find out the differences and similarities with this handy chart.
The octopus brain is nothing like ours, but scientists are using it to discover how intelligence evolved.  From Wired magazine, see How the Freaky Octopus Can Help Us Understand the Human Brain.
 images-5 The octopus is amazing – and amazingly smart. In fact, they have the largest brains of any invertebrate. From Orion magazine, find out all about it at Deep Intellect.
It’s hard to find a cephalopod. Check out Cephalopod: Master of Camouflage on You Tube. Also see Where’s the Octopus?
 imgres-16 From the National Aquarium, the Chambered Nautilus page has general information and photographs. (Octopuses eat them.)
The chambered nautilus is a living fossil – it’s been around for half a billion years – but it now may be in danger, due to the high demand for its pearly shell. From the New York Times, see Loving the Chambered Nautilus to Death.
 images-2 Squid in space! Really. A bobtail squid was sent into space on board the space shuttle. Read about it and find out why.


 hobased_2249_35384365 Possibly the best Halloween pumpkin ever? See Extreme Pumpkins’ Giant Squid Pumpkin.
 IMG_5335 Make this particularly cool toilet-paper-tube squid from Almost Unschoolers.
 octopus 029 From Artists Helping Children, the Squid Arts and Crafts and Octopus Arts and Crafts pages have dozens of hands-on projects for all ages. Make a giant squid pillow or turn a clothes hanger into an Outrageous Octopus.
 octopus-cupcake-recipe-photo-420-0396-FF03111X Make OCTOPUS CUPCAKES! (The tentacles are gummy worms.)
 WCDS-400 From Steve Spangler Science, Squidy is a classic science toy – the cephalopod version of the Cartesian diver. Learn all about density and buoyancy (with a squid). $3.99.
 imgres-18 Trained Octopus is another version of the Cartesian diver: to make your own, you’ll need an eye dropper, cellophane, and a liter plastic bottle. Fun and fascinating.


 imgres-19 By Ogden Nash, The Octopus; by Jack Prelutsky, I’m Wrestling With an Octopus. (Giggle.)
Kenn Nesbit’s Speedy Squid – which appears in The Tighty Whitey Spider (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010)  – features a racing squid and ends with a pun. Kids will love it.
 imgres-20 Poet/molecular biologist Katherine Larson celebrates – among other things – squid in her poetry collection Radial Symmetry (Yale University Press, 2011). Learn about her work in her PBS interview Dissecting Prose and Squid.
 imgres-17 For a classic poem about a cephalopod, see The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

And finally…

 imgres-21 Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid (HarperPerennial, 2008) doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with squid, but it is an interesting discussion of the neurobiology of reading – a skill that most of us adore, but doesn’t come naturally. For teenagers and adults.
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