About the Holiday
The month of December is a gift-giver’s delight, and there’s no better gift for everyone on your list than a book (or two or…). With so many new books hitting bookstore shelves, there really is a perfect one to fit everyone’s taste. Young children, especially, benefit from reading a wide range of picture books from laugh-out-loud or touching stories to nonfiction that introduces them to influential people, science, history, nature, math—like today’s book. If you’re looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find books that will make your child’s eyes light up.
I’d like to thank Tra Publishing for sending me a copy of Octopuses Have Zero Bones for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book about Our Amazing World
Written by Anne Richardson | Illustrated by Andrea Antinori
If you’re looking for a book that opens kids’ eyes and mind to new ways to interact with numbers and fall in love with everything they have to tell about us and the world around us, then you’ll want to wrap your arms around Octopuses Have Zero Bones. This multilayered and eye-opening romp through the ability of numbers to describe, explain, provide perspective, and amaze celebrates the numbers from zero to nine and the power of numbers ten to nine billion.
Kids at all levels will find accessible ways to explore the math concepts that enliven every page, from basic counting to higher-level ideas that include measurement, extrapolation, and estimation as well as complex scientific facts. And how does all of this learning begin? With 0 and simple statement and probing question: “ZERO, all by itself, is nothing. Can you imagine nothing?” It might be hard for kids to think about how “nothing” can be important or have an effect. But Anne Richardson, with illustrative help from Andrea Antinori, reveals that because “octopuses have ZERO bones…” they “can squeeze through very small places.” And, if that doesn’t surprise you, she also presents this fascinating tidbit: “Dry Valleys, Antarctica, gets ZERO rain or snow.” In fact “there’s been no precipitation for two million years.” Two million! That’s nearly as impressive as zero!
But that’s not all! There are more examples, and then Richardson shows how that simple digit 0 can make a single whole number explode into 100, 1,000, 100,000 and so on. She moves from there to tackle the numbers 1 through 9, by themselves and then attached to one 0. Readers next learn about 10—10 decibels, a creature with 10 legs, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. Those familiar with counting know that 2 comes after 1, and Richardson and Antinori help kids visualize this number with peanut shells that contain two individual nuts, the 2 moons of Mars, and more. Here, readers are shown what happens when two zeros are attached to the number two, and, of course, they’re given a few intriguing examples of 200.
This pattern is continued throughout the pages from 3 and 3,000 to 9 and 9,000,000,000. Along the way, children learn about the different types of clouds, how many times a bear’s heart beats per hour, how many chambers the human heart has, how many grains are in a two-pound bag of rice, and the astounding number of leaves you’d find on a typical mature oak tree. Ever wonder how many gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls every ninety seconds? You’ll find out here—along with the ph of water (7), what that means, and the ph number of other common liquids.
Have you ever tried to measure a raindrop? It’s okay! Richardson shows kids just how big the biggest raindrop can be and reveals what happens if one happens to exceed this limit. Kids fascinated by space will want to check out the pages about the number 8, and future biologists will find interesting facts there too. Entomologists may want to flip to the discussions of the numbers 4, 6, and 9 before settling in to start again at the beginning. The number 9 is pretty awesome, especially if you like narwhals and bananas, and you’ll discover that no matter how antsy you might get while waiting for what seems like for. ev. er, you’ll never, ever be able to jiggle as many times as a cesium atom.
While Octopuses Have Zero Bones ends at nine billion, Richardson reminds readers that while “NINE BILLION is a big number…it’s not the biggest. You can keep counting forever.” Even into the trillions and beyond. In her Author’s Note that follows the text, she reveals the event that sparked the idea for this book and encourages children to “go out into the world and count or measure something, anything”; to do this short-term and long-term; to “be astonished, take a closer look” and “discover many wonderful things.”
Andrea Antinori depicts each concept with whimsical illustrations that exude humor and personality while pointing readers to examples of the featured number or numbers. But her pages do much, much more as well. Take two page spreads that portray the number 1 for example. There is an image of our one sun as is mentioned in the text, and there is an image of a man with one heart as mentioned in the text. But this heart is a tattoo, which leads kids to notice that the man has other tattoos—all single images.
He is raising one arm, but at the end of that arm is a hand with five fingers just waiting to be counted. And—oh yeah—next to him is the adorable red octopus from the page about zero, who is also waving at the reader with one arm, but there’s a line of suckers on it (some singular, some in pairs) that also invite counting. And that’s just to get kids started. There are clouds, birds, and a sea full of dots to check out too. Now multiply that kind of clever detail and recurring characters by 30 pages and kids have almost innumerable ways to learn from and engage with this book.
Octopuses Have Zero Bones is a book that readers can page through from beginning to end or dip into whenever curiosity hits. It’s the perfect boredom buster because, as Anne Richardson notes, kids can jump off from any randomly chosen page into their own discovery and research at home, in their neighborhood, or on the Internet.
This book would be a much-used reference on home and bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and library collections.
Ages 5 – 9 and up
Tra Publishing, 2022 | ISBN 978-1735311524
You can find a Kids Activity Guide, Teacher’s Guide, and Posters for Octopuses Have Zero Bones to download on the Tra Publishing website.
About the Author
Anne Richardson is an author of experiences that kindle your curiosity. In her work, everything in the world is astonishing and worthy of our attention, from a drop of rain to the way we figure things out together. She is the senior director of Global Collaborations at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, where she works with partners worldwide to imagine and create new science centers and other extraordinary learning experiences. Richardson holds a PhD and an MS in environmental studies from Antioch University New England, and a BA in art history from Northwestern University. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, including two little explorers. Visit her at her website.
About the Illustrator
Andrea Antinori is an award-winning illustrator based in Bologna, Italy. Since he was a child, he has loved animals and he has loved to draw them. His favorite animal changes all the time. He likes octopuses very much, but right now, lemurs are the creatures he loves most. He wrote and illustrated the book On the Lives of Lemurs: A Short Treatise on Natural History. Other books he has illustrated include A Book about Whales and The Great Battle, the latter of which has received major international awards including: Best International Illustrated Book — China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair, Premio Andersen — Best book 6-9 years olds, Selected illustrator for exhibition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017, Italian illustrator in IBBY Honor List 2016. You can learn more about her books and her art on her website and connect with her on Instagram.
Read a New Book Month Activity
Cute Sock Octopus Craft
Octopuses may have zero bones but they sure do have a lot of arms! With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little octopus to count on to keep you company on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!
- Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
- Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
- 2 Small buttons
- Hot glue or strong glue
- Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
- Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
- Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
- With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
- Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
- Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
- Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
Buy a Book, Plant a Tree
If you purchase Octopuses Have Zero Bones from the Tra Publishing website, they, in partnership with One Tree Planted, plant one tree for every book purchased. At checkout, you have the opportunity to make an additional donation.
Purchase from the Tra Publishing website
You can find Octopuses Have Zero Bones at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review
This goes well with SCBWI’s Bookstop program.
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