Scieszka, J. (2007). Cowboy and octopus. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group.
Cowboy and Octopus is a very unique picture book about two very different friends. In the story, the two characters meet and become friends and then experience several things that real friends encounter with friendship. They learn quite a few lessons from one another. They learn that sometimes friends can be a lot of help, and other times friends mess up. They learn that sometimes it's important to be honest with each other and that you should appreciate things that others do for you. This book is a creative story about friendships. Students can learn by reading this story that two very different people can be great friends.
I found the illustrations in this story very different. The illustrator used a variety of surrealistic and cartoon art. Most of the pictures were cartoons such as the pictures of Cowboy and Octopus. Surrealistic pictures are found when the illustrator included a picture of an actual head of lettuce and actual bowls of beans. The beans were very realistic looking. It looks as if someone had taken several pictures of beans with their camera and inserted them onto the pages of this picture book. The juice is the beans is very apparent. Most pages of the book included headings. The headings are in block, colorful letters. The artistic media appears to be mainly collage with some photography, as I mentioned before. I noticed a few things that appeared to be torn paper which would be a type of collage. A doublespread is found on the last two pages of the book.
The character development in this book is pretty weak; therefore Cowboy and Octopus are both flat characters. After reading the book, I didn't know much about either character. In other words, they were both underdeveloped characters. After reading the book, I did notice that both characters had a sense of humor, but other than that, I couldn't describe them in any more detail. A good theme for this story would be, "True friends are there for one another, are honest to each other, and do fun things together." The theme most definitely conveyed truth and was based on high moral and ethical standards. The author included several types of figurative language. Onomatopoeia was used in this story with the use of the words "yee-haw," "bam," and "whoa." The author uses personification in this story by giving Octopus human qualities. The octopus seems to be a human because he talks to Cowboy, he dresses up for Halloween, he eats with a spoon, etc.
The genre of this story is obviously fantasy because of the personified character of Octopus. This fantasy story is an excellent book to use in the classroom to reiterate the importance of good qualities of friendship. This was not one of my favorite books to read, but I did enjoy the theme behind the story because students can learn that two very different people can be friends. "Opposites attract" can be talked about with students. This idea is more of an adult idea, but it could still be taught and explained to elementary students.
BIG questions - How were Octopus and Cowboy friends although they were so different? What made their friendship successful? Why did Octopus pretend to like Cowboy's beans?