Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Giant Squid

Giant Squid

Candace Fleming
Illustrator:   Eric Rohmann 
For ages 6 to 8
Roaring Brook Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-1596435995

On some level, all of us have a fascination with creatures that are hidden and mysterious. Why else would so many people flock to Loch Ness in Scotland to see the famous monster that is said to live in the deep dark lake? Why else would people tramp through the forests of the Pacific Northwest in the hope of seeing Bigfoot?

One of the ‘monsters’ that has fascinated people for centuries is the giant squid. Images of such creatures appeared on old maps, and stories were told of enormous squids attacking boats and ripping them apart. The amazing thing about these kraken, as some call them, is that they really exist. We don’t know a great deal about them because they are shy animals that live in deep ocean waters. They favor the “cold, cold dark,” and only rarely do we catch a glimpse of them, or find a piece of their story in the belly of a whale, in a net, or on a beach. A piece of tentacle or a sucker, a huge eye, a hunk of flesh is usually all we find. Thankfully these clues have made it possible for us to learn about these creatures just enough to give us a sense of what they are like and how they live.

We know that they have two enormous tentacles that they use to hunt prey. Covered in suckers that are “ringed with saw-like teeth,” these arms hold the squid’s food. Its other eight arms push the food into the animal’s mouth, which is armed with a fearsome looking beak.

To find its prey the giant squid uses its enormous eyes. Even in the dark depths these eyes, which are as big as soccer balls, can find fish and jellyfish to eat. The eyes also see the animals that like to dine on the squid, the whales that can dive deep to hunt for them. To protect itself the squid can befuddle an animal that it is hunting it by squirting ink into the water.

Even readers who are not normally drawn to books about animals will be intrigued by this splendid nonfiction title. The author and illustrator take us to a place few of us will ever visit, where a secretive animal, a huge creature, hides in the dark. At the back of the book we are given an annotated diagram that shows us what giant squids look like. An author’s note provides us with further information about these illusive animals, and we discover that though there are clearly many of these remarkable animals in the world’s oceans, we still know very little about them.