By Sy Montgomery
You might think a book on octopuses would be the farthest from my list of book reviews about dogs and the environment, but octopuses are very smart, inquisitive, and have individual personalities. In many ways, the octopuses at the aquarium can act as pets, remembering people who interact with them and express their feelings by blowing water at those they don’t like. They enjoy getting their heads petted, and playing, much like a dog.
Octopuses can even show affection towards humans by tasting them and hanging onto their arms. They can change color rapidly to show their emotions, red for anger or excitement, white for contentment, and other colors to blend into their environment as camouflage. Sometimes octopuses escape their tanks or seem to play tricks on their caretakers. They enjoy working puzzles and need to have something to do or they get bored.
The author, Sy Montgomery, wanted to get to know octopuses better, so she started with a visit to the New England Aquarium, where she met Athena, the first octopus she ever touched. The meeting intrigued her into frequent visits and getting to know the aquarists and their concerns for the animal’s environments. Octopuses only live a few years, and the book covers several octopuses at the aquarium and the trials imposed on them with conditions at the aquarium. Octopuses are as unique as their names, Octavia, Kali, and Karma. Eventually Sy wants to see octopuses in the wild and learns how to scuba dive, which presents many problems, but ultimately leads to many successes.
This book is not a documentary, but a very enjoyable read recounting her experiences with these octopuses, the aquarists, and the concerns of spacing, compatibility, and other problems experienced at public aquariums.
I recommend this book to open our eyes to the world around us and to experience other intelligent beings. The Soul of an Octopus was a National Book Award Finalist and I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.