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2016 Winner: Middle Grades Science Book

The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

In The Octopus Scientists, Sy Montgomery transports readers to a remote South Pacific Island where a team of scientists study the behavior of octopuses, tracking the decision-making skills as they avoid predators and choose food and shelter. As part of the Scientists in the Field series, a groundbreaking series that places scientists’ real work at the center of science stories for children, Montgomery’s work showcases the researchers’ work and all aspects of life in the field.

Montgomery is a gifted writer with the capacity to create pictures and impart factual information in eloquent passages such as the following, which opens the book: “With three hearts and blue blood, its gelatinous body unconstrained by jointed limbs or gravity, the octopus seems to be an alien, an inhabitant of another world. Its baggy, boneless body sprouts eight arms covered with thousands of suckers—suckers that can taste as well as feel. The octopus also has the powers of a superhero: it can shape-shift, change color, squirt ink, pour itself through the tiniest of openings, or jet away through the sea faster than a swimmer can follow.”

About the Author

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, author, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who writes for children as well as adults. Among her award-winning books are Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Spell of the Tiger, and Search for the Golden Moon Bear. She has made four trips to Peru and Brazil to study the pink dolphins of the Amazon; and on other expeditions, she was chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire; bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica; undressed by an orangutan in Borneo; and hunted by a tiger in India. She also worked in a pit crawling with eighteen thousand snakes in Manitoba. Her latest book for adults, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award.