By Libby Stille, Publicist
Have you ever wondered what sea creatures would write if they could send postcards? And by chance did you want to see this in picture book format? Or maybe you’ve just always wanted a different take on an animal life cycle book.
Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus is a fresh look at a saltwater cephalopod mollusk life cycle. Readers follow Agnes as she discovers a postcard under the waves and begins corresponding with a human boy, a cantankerous crab, and more friends and foes. This epistolary picture book also tracks Agnes’s life cycle as she makes her home in a jar, lays eggs, cares for the eggs, and says goodbye to her children.
Agnes also wrote a few postcards that didn’t make it into the book! In honor of World Octopus Day (it’s today!), here are her notes to author Irene Latham, illustrator Thea Baker, and editor Carol Hinz.
Postcards from an octopus
Agnes writes to Thea
Just because I am an octopus and live under the waves does not mean I can’t appreciate art. I see it every day–in the coral reef and the shadows beneath the pier and the way sunlight cuts through the blue. So I have a question for you–make that two: what inspires you? Of all the stories in the world, why did you choose to illustrate mine?
Great to hear from you!
There is so much that inspires me. I particularly love texture and pattern and notice these elements everywhere. I take a lot of photos and have sketchbooks full of textures I’ve created using a range of mediums. Naturally, I’m also very inspired by stories.
I was really excited when I read your story, Agnes. Octopuses are fascinating! The underwater world you live in is full of incredible colors and textures. I couldn’t wait to start the illustrations. Your skin is amazing, by the way!
I’m glad you like my skin. In your illustrations, I love how rosy the red is and how pearly the white. I can even turn purple, which happens to be my most favorite color. Do you have a favorite color? Let me guess: BLUE! By the way, I think you’re fascinating, too. I’d love to peek inside your sketchbook!
Agnes writes to Irene
I read somewhere that you like to send–and receive–postcards. So we have that in common! But have you ever tried writing postcards underwater? It’s not as easy as it looks. Try it.
I do love to send–and receive–postcards. So, thank you! I think my postcard-love stems from moving around A LOT as a kid (see the enclosed picture of my family in Thailand). I was always leaving places and friends, and postcards are a fun, easy way to keep up. By the way, when I tried writing underwater, my leftie-smear made a big, blobby mess. I hereby crown you, dear Agnes, the Postcard Queen!
Your humble servant,
Dear Kind Irene,
I accept your crown with honor and gratitude! Another great thing about being an octopus: I’m AMBIDEXTROUS! Each of my arms works equally well and independently of one another. Do you have any special talents I should know about? Besides swimming, of course. I feel the same way as you do about swimming!
Happy Agnes (the Postcard Queen)
Dear Happy Agnes,
Yes, you can’t be sad or mad when you’re swimming. But the truth is, I’m a pretty average swimmer. We live on a lake, and my favorite thing to do is FLOAT, not swim. Sorry. But I do have something else I like to do: play the cello! With your all your amazing arms, I bet you’d make some amazing music!
Agnes writes to Carol
As you know, my name is Agnes. I may not be the smartest octopus in the sea, but I know you are a dancer and you like to take photographs (and post them on Instagram). Yes, I know all about Instagram. Who doesn’t?
Now I’m wondering: have you ever tried writing books in addition to editing them? You don’t have to think about book sales numbers or catching stray commas when you’re writing a first draft. Try it.
I daresay you’re smarter than you give yourself credit for–it’s not every octopus that’s a skilled researcher! I have written a number of stories and poems but find I prefer to be behind the scenes. Working with authors and illustrators to help bring new voices and new stories to children is immensely gratifying.
Your own journey to publication took much persistence (and revision!) on Irene’s part. Can you believe how much your story evolved since Irene first imagined you into being?
We have that behind-the-scenes thing in common! (I am very good at blending in.) Yes, it is hard to believe that our book started out as a collection of poems. I do love poems! There’s not enough ink in all the sea for the poems I’d like to write, but I guess I’d best save some of my ink for those pesky dogfish and know-it-all (younger) octopuses.
One last question before I say goodbye: what would you write on your last postcard to the world?
Wow, your question makes me think of my two children. Suddenly, I want to cry! I guess if I were writing my last postcard to the world, I would say: Dear World, Thank you for all the joy and beauty you have sent my way. To those who come after me, please take care of our planet (including the cephalopod mollusks!), and always look for ways to add more love into the world.
With all my heart,
Would you like to receive a postcard from Irene to celebrate National Poetry Month in April? Sign up!
Here’s what critics have to say about Agnes:
- “Though Latham’s story is thoroughly fantastic, both author and illustrator have been respectful to this amazing creature, describing realistic behaviors and depicting her relatively accurately, right down to the rectangular pupils of her eyes and her senescent color change. . . . [F]or reading aloud or reading alone.”—Kirkus Reviews