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Lucy the Octopus ISBN: 9781785925139
Chandler, Richy K.
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018
As I read this graphic novel in short comic-style strips, I kept thinking about Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy and couldn't quite realise why. At the end when I read the author's list of people who had influenced him most, Charles Schulz was on that list and everything was explained. Not that Lucy the Octopus is a copy of Charlie Brown, but she is another of life's losers, and in this story she's a loser in a big way - until the end. Lucy is not cool, really not cool, and in a situation where everyone thinks coolness is the most important thing in life, she is seriously different from anyone else. Life below the ocean with all the other octopuses (we are permitted to use the plural octopuses instead of octopi!) is definitely not a piece of cake. Even her siblings despise her, and her parents aren't much better. She is a sad little octopus, and her low self-esteem becomes the catalyst for much mistreatment. Her only friend is her loyal pet pufferfish, Puffy, who, given the pufferfish tendency to sting other fish to death, doesn't make for lasting friendship. What her classmates and family don't know is that Lucy is a demon guitar player. She really rocks, but it isn't possible for her to admit this to anyone. Even when she gets the gumption to audition for local pop group Lamington Fuzz, they don't take her on because she doesn't look the part. The only way she can be taken seriously by the group is to wear a watermelon on her head! Then she looks 'cool', and they accept her. There is much about her siblings treatment of her and why, and it is only when during a school trip she falls down a chasm with one of the 'popular' girls from school and meets a tiny creature called Sydney that she begins to understand there are kind people who think she is great. Kate also realises that Lucy has talents hitherto unexpected and begins to find her interesting. Gradually, after Puffy rescues the two girls from a monster fish, Lucy's siblings and others at school begin to have more respect. But it is only when they discover that 'Melon Head' is Lucy that that respect turns into admiration. Make no mistake, this is a complex, meaty story with no easy answers in spite of the happy ending. The format of four strips to each double page is a winner, and the end of each strip tends to have a poignant message. This Lucy is the polar opposite of Schulz's Lucy, who is the bully par excellence, and she gets her happy ending that Charlie Brown rarely has. But she must go through lots of suffering to get there, and the remarkable thing is that humour is rampant throughout the story. We dislike all the characters except Lucy from the beginning, but we also see their weaknesses and faults, and much fun is made of these. There is some language that many will find distasteful, and Lucy is called 'gay' and 'dyke' at one point, but it adds to the importance of the bullying that the seriously unpleasant characters involved are so insolently hateful of a person who is only very ordinary and shy. Kids will learn lessons from this book and will learn them in ways that will make the lesson stick. There is nothing like humour to convince us of the wrongness of our misdeeds, and Lucy the Octopus has it in spades. Available from Amazon, from good book shops, and from the publisher: www.jkp.com
Age: 10+