EK Books, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Where the cool river meets the warm ocean and the roots of the mangroves provide sanctuary for all sorts of creatures on the sandy seabeds of the Indo-Pacific region, lives Thaumoctopus mimicus. But what is this creature? Is it a brown=spotted flatfish? A spiked lionfish? A banded sea snake? Perhaps it is a hermit crab, maybe a jellyfish or even a sea anemone. A seahorse? A feather star? A seashell or stingray… No? Wait, perhaps it is all of these things…
In this intriguing book young readers are introduced to a fascinating creature that can change colour, shape and skin texture at will mimicking those around it to deter predators. For Mim, is, in fact an octopus!! Discovered in 1998 off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia but also found around the Great Barrier Reef, this master of disguise is the first of the genus to be observed impersonating other creatures and is the first known species to take on the characteristics of multiple species.
Using a guessing game technique that is so much more engaging than a fact sheet, accompanied by detailed illustrations, this is a book that will captivate young readers who are interested in the miracles of Mother Nature, particularly how creatures protect themselves through camouflage. The double-page spread that compares Mim to those she imitates is fascinating and the STEM activities of the teachers’ notes offer lots of suggestions that will encourage further exploration, including investigating the differences between “disguise” and “mimicry”. They also offer some suggestions for how we, as humans, can develop mindfulness strategies by mimicking Mim but perhaps older students could explore the concept of human disguise – who are we and what are we doing when we choose to use make up, follow a fashion trend, adopt a hairstyle and so forth. Why do we try to “disguise” ourselves and are our strategies successful?
This is another of the new breed of non fiction that demands to be in the collection so that our students have access to all sorts of stuff that goes beyond the curriculum and into the worlds of wonder and curiosity to spark the imagination and investigation. Seriously, who among us knew of this little creature let alone well enough to introduce it to our students?