The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Sep 18, 2018 - Juvenile Fiction - 256 pages
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, Charlie May Simon Award 2020–2021 List, South Carolina Book Awards Nominee, 2020–2021, and 2023 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award nominee.

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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User Review  - jennybeast - LibraryThing

Powerful look at poverty, domestic abuse, and the possibilities of escape. I like that there were no easy answers, but the characters were still able to start a new life. It's bleak, but there's some ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ecataldi - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21
Section 22
Section 23

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26
Section 27
Section 28
Section 29

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About the author (2018)

Ann Braden writes books about kids struggling to find their voice amidst the realities of life. She founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group focused on championing the common ground on the issue of guns in Vermont, which recently helped pass landmark gun violence prevention legislation. She also founded the Local Love Brigade, which now has chapters all over the country sending love postcards to those who are facing hate. Ann is the co-host of the children's book podcast, "Lifelines: Books that Bridge the Divide," along with Pakistani American author Saadia Faruqi, and is a former middle school teacher. She lives in southern Vermont with her husband, two children, and two insatiable cats named Boomer and Justice. Visit her online at www.annbradenbooks.com.

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