Booklist starred review June 1, 2015 issue
Edgar is eager for a puppy, but when he gets a yellow box deceptively decorated with dog bones, he’s disgruntled to discover there’s not a canine in the package but a goggle-eyed, eight-legged cephalopod named Jarvis. Jarvis’ enthusiasm for Edgar is stunning—he emerges from his box with confetti and ribbons and regales his new owner with masterful tricks, such as wearing all the shoes in the house and holding lots of ice-cream cones at once. Edgar is dead set on a dog, though, and it’s not until Jarvis follows his command to sit that he’s satisfied, and it’s off to the dog show. Can Jarvis obey like the doggie Edgar wants him to be? (Spoiler alert: no.) It takes a while, but Edgar eventually learns to value Jarvis for what he is—a brilliant creature who looks boffo in a tux and is better than any puppy. McKenna’s hilarious illustrations and uproarious page turns capture a fantastic array of cartoonish emotions, from Edgar’s furrowed-brow fury and head-hanging regret to Jarvis’ charmingly oblivious attempts to impress, all of which are obvious enough that young ones who haven’t mastered reading yet will still be able to follow along. Kiddos will chuckle over Jarvis’ antics, and they’ll be heartwarmed when Edgar finally appreciates his octopal. Superb laugh-a-minute absurdity.
Review by Sarah Hunter
This is one of the most wonderful books I have read in a long time! Edgar wants a puppy for his birthday, but instead he gets Jarvis, an octopus. Edgar is sorely disappointed and proceeds to train Jarvis to be a dog. Though Jarvis tries, he can’t be the dog Edgar wants him to be. In the end, Edgar learns that Jarvis is pretty fantastic just the way he is and is the perfect pet. The story has a sweet message and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this book up for a Caldecott award next year. Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Review by Teresa Edmunds, Westbrook Elementary Media Center
Portland Book Review
In Martin McKenna’s The Octopuppy, young Edgar dreams of having a dog. However, he is gifted a pet octopus instead! Edgar is not quite willing to give up on his dream and makes every effort to train Jarvis to behave like a dog. Jarvis is very intelligent, and tends to follow commands in his own unique way, much to Edgar’s chagrin. Eventually deciding he is a failure at being a dog, Jarvis runs away. It takes Jarvis’ absence to strike home to Edgar that Jarvis was not a dog, and Edgar should not have been trying to make him behave like one. Edgar begins searching all over for Jarvis, but will Jarvis hear his heartfelt apology?
The book is colorful, and has very cute illustrations that children and adults will fall in love with. There is some surprisingly morbid humor tucked inside the images as well that children will likely not notice, but may cause a chuckle from adults. For example, when Jarvis runs away he flushes himself down a toilet – something typically reserved for disposing of waste and the occasional fish funeral – and even leaves behind a farewell note. There is also a scene during Edgar’s search for Jarvis where he holds up a missing poster to a butcher standing in front of a pile of fish.
An incredibly quirky children’s book, The Octopuppy teaches children the importance of respecting the uniqueness of others, and that it isn’t always a bad thing to not have your expectations met. If you didn’t think cephalopods were cute before, The Octopuppy may change your mind! Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Review by Whitney Smyth
Northshire Bookstore staff pick
Most kids want a pet. Usually a dog or a cat. And Edgar is no exception with wanting a dog. Instead, he gets Jarvis, an Octopuppy. He cannot play dead, or lay down like normal dogs. No, Jarvis has to always go overboard. But Edgar still tries to take Jarvis to the dog show. But when Jarvis being Jarvis makes Edgar say something, Jarvis runs away. But soon, Edgar learns a very important lesson. The Octopuppy was a fun book to read. Martin McKenna's quirky text and readable illustrations make this a fun anytime adventure. Review by Jeanette
Cartoony silliness captures an all-too-familiar childhood dilemma--you want one thing but get another. In "Octopuppy", McKenna's Jarvis (the eclectic octopus) is the very epitome of this NOT THE PUPPY I WANTED phenomenon. Well-placed microexpressions balance Jarvis' wild eccentricities to create one of the weirdest, best-composed picture books of the year. Review by Aubrey Restifo
Book Picks hosted by Joe Donahue, review by Suzanna Hermans from Oblong Books & Music