Steve Tetreault's Reviews > The Benefits of Being an Octopus

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
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it was amazing

What it's about: Zoey is the quiet kid in class. When other kids are talking about the latest TV shows, or gossiping about who likes whom, she's thinking about how she's going to keep her younger siblings from getting yelled at by her mom's boyfriend. But at least they get to live in his trailer, which is way better than when they were living in the car, trying to find safe places to sleep.

Zoey doesn't get her homework done. She's too busy taking care of her three younger siblings while her mother works. She's helping make sure the trailer stays neat, so her mother's boyfriend won't get upset. But he's pretty good about sharing his snacks and letting Zoey watch the football game with him, which is way better than not having a TV to watch.

When one of Zoey's teachers encourages her to join the debate team, Zoey can't figure out why - what signal has she sent that makes the teacher think she's remotely interested, or qualified? But sometimes it's the unexpected nudge that can send things tumbling in new and confusing ways.

What I thought: I found this to be a very readable and engaging story. Zoey was very relatable, and her tale weaves together so many personal and social issues in a realistic and thought-provoking way. I so badly wanted to offer Zoey aid and comfort as she struggled to figure out why things were so bad, and how they might get better.

This book is an excellent, if sad, reminder that there are a lot of kids out there living in some pretty poor circumstances. And not just kids - there are adults who find themselves trying to do all the right things, like Zoey's mom, who get one too many bad breaks, and find themselves unable to stay afloat.

This book could not only serve as an excellent window for many kids, and a mirror for others, but it could also form the foundation of a hundred deep, meaningful, and important conversations with middle school-aged kids.

Why I rated it like I did: I very much want to make this book a part of every middle school curriculum! For the many, many privileged kids who don't realize how good they have it, this could help them see how fortunate they are. For the kids who are underprivileged, they might be able to not only relate to Zoey, but also they might be able to draw some strength from her story as she learns to see that sometimes it's not that we're wrong, it's that the situation we're in is wrong.

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Reading Progress

May 17, 2019 – Started Reading
May 20, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 21, 2019 – Shelved

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