How to Get Your Octopus to School by Becky Scharnhorst, illus. by Jaclyn Sinquett

Hello, Picture Book Builders people. To celebrate the start of a brand new school year, my friend and critique partner, Catherine Bailey, thought we could use a back-to-school book around here. As usual, that smartypants pal of mine is RIGHT.

Please welcome Catherine and her thoughts on a book that stars an octopus because, well, I’m pretty sure your day calls for exactly that!

Ah September. My kids are back in classrooms, our house is quiet, and I can finally return to the business of being an author. The keyboard calls. It is time.

But first…

I need to double-check the car line schedule. Then just a short email to the homeroom mom. And, of course, a quick peek at the back-to-school pictures of my girls (from the past thirteen years). I should also probably stand in their bedroom doorway for just a minute.


Apparently, I am having trouble letting go. While I definitely enjoy a return to routine, the first day of school always makes me feel a bit, well, clingy. Hence my choice of book for this blog post – HOW TO GET YOUR OCTOPUS TO SCHOOL. (It’s me. I’m the octopus.) This charming picture book follows a young girl as she prepares her eight-legged pet for his first day of school.

The story begins with a reluctant octopus who would rather stay home and “play hide-and-seek or dress-up.” And he does just that, camouflaging himself in multiple spreads before finally coming out for a powerful hug – all before breakfast.

As the pages turn, author Becky Scharnhorst shows us more and more clever parallels between this nervous little octopus and a typical first-time student. From picking an outfit to having an ink-ccident, young ones will see themselves in his antics, and they’ll enjoy the silliness of it all.

Does everything work out in the end? Will the octopus ever let go and stop hiding? And how does the young girl handle all of this? You will have to read to find out. And when you do – keep an eye out for these excellent examples of kidlit craftery…

  • The author develops her characters’ personalities and enriches the story with specific details. For instance, this little octopus likes mystery mollusk on his toast, and grabs eight (of course!) stuffed animals on his way out the door.
  • The author accurately portrays octopi behavior – they really *are* excellent at hiding! They really *do* slip through teeny tiny openings! We aren’t just getting a cute story; we are getting nonfiction learning.
  • The illustrator, Jaclyn Sinquett, adds an interactive layer to the book by encouraging readers to find the octopus in the artwork. Just imagine tiny fingers scanning the spreads, searching for tucked up tentacles.
  • The illustrator also highlights the themes of the book with wonderfully emotive expressions– eyes clamped shut, tiny frown – we can almost feel the resistance!

Overall, this book is sweet, relatable AND a great mentor text. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to prepare some after-school snacks.


Catherine Bailey is an award-winning children’s book author and youth presenter from sunny Florida. Her recent books include HUSTLE BUSTLE BUGS (LBBYR, 2022), DINOS DON’T MEDITATE (Sounds True, 2023), and the forthcoming GOOD MORNING SCHOOL (Union Square Kids, 2024). When she is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitoes, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Her prior job titles include Lawyer, Sailboat Deckhand, and Cartoon Network Intern. Her hobbies include reading, travel and donuts. But mostly reading.




Congratulations, Kim A. Larson! YOU won a copy of You Go First, written by Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Becky is an amazing critique partner, as well!

  2. Looking forward to seeing all the fun details in this well-crafted book! Thanks for the helpful review!

  3. Thank you, Tammi. And Congratulations, Catherine!!! What a fun back-to-school story.

  4. Such a super fun book!

  5. Love this book! It’s funny and beautifully illustrated with a heart-tugging ending.

  6. I love Becky’s books and can’t wait to read this one!

  7. Looking forward to reading this!

  8. Octopus is a great book, and I agree that it’s also a great mentor text. I’ve learned so much from Becky in my critique group.

  9. Such fun! Getting two-armed and legged critters off to school is tough! I can’t wait to see how one gets an eight-armed octopus out the door.

  10. Nice to see a new book by Becky Sharnhorst –keep it up, Becky!

  11. With all the grown-up octopus books out there now (ex: “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt, which is on my TBR shelf in my bedroom), I’m excited to see a cute children’s book starring an octopus! Can’t wait to read this one and all the scenarios play out. Thanks for pointing to it as a mentor text!

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