Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk
HMH Books for Young Readers, ISBN 0544232704
An international team of scientists with varied focuses work together on a remote South Pacific island to study octopus behaviors.
Two weeks on Moorea, in French Polynesia, snorkeling and diving around the reefs off the coast, admiring the abundant life, and learning about octopuses. What could be nicer? In her latest observation of scientific fieldwork, Montgomery doesn’t ignore the downside—there’s more searching than studying, here, and it’s often physically uncomfortable—but she dwells on the joys of admiring the endless variety in the underwater world and learning about these reclusive, intelligent, surprising creatures. With ease that comes from long practice, she weaves a narrative full of fascinating detail, helpful comparisons, direct quotations, and personal reactions that bring readers into the experience. Chapters of action, with smoothly integrated explanatory background, are interspersed with informative passages about octopuses, the field station, and coral reefs. She describes the team’s daily explorations in the water and their inside lab work, identifying the food remains they’ve collected from neat piles outside the octopuses’ dens. This is an account of a successful expedition, although it raises more questions than it answers. “The field is about serendipity,” expedition leader Jennifer Mather reminds readers. Amazing photographs reveal the octopuses’ remarkable shape-changing abilities and help readers visualize this experience.
Science in the field at its best. (Nonfiction. 10-16)