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The adventure of Otto, the inquisitive octopus

By Angela Pidduck

Cynthia Sheila Ellis has dedicated her first publication Inquisitive Otto, the story of Otto the Octopus, to: “Gabriella, my five-year-old grand-daughter: a beam of sunshine.” Ellis, a Servol-certified Early Childhood Educator, who started Our Lady of Lourdes Nursery School in Maraval in 1985, catering for 36 children between the ages of three and five, and was director of the school for ten years, thanks Sr Roberta O’Flaherty CHF “for entrusting me with the position. It has enhanced my life tremendously.”

The mother of four adult children and grandmother of four, has been married to Francis Ellis for 60 years. In retirement, she has written the story of ‘Otto the Octopus’ who lived at the bottom of the ocean on the seabed, primarily for four to six year olds “with the total development of the child in mind”.

Asked by my long-time friend from Bishop Anstey High School, for feedback on her book, I thought what better person to share some thoughts than my intelligent 11-year-old neighbour, Ciara Isaac, one of the SEA students of St Mary’s Mucurapo Girls’ RC caught in the pandemic web of online school, in preparation for the SEA examination.

Ciara, who totally enjoyed reading Inquisitive Otto “not once but twice”, quite sensibly compares Otto’s situation to her life. “Otto lived with his mom. I live with my mom and grandmother. His father went to get food and never returned. I do not live with my father and sometimes there are issues, and he may not be around…. I liked that Otto was caring and kind to his mother just as I try to be with my mother and grandmother.”

“Otto had no sisters or brothers, but his best friend was Ola. I do not have brothers and sisters either, and my best friend from first year to Standard Five is Almasi.” Otto’s misfortune was getting caught in a fisherman’s net – recently Ciara has had her own share of misfortunes when her private lesson tutor, a neighbour Rhonda Milta Sylvester, suddenly passed away.

Ciara found the story “very interesting” and specially liked Otto’s first visit to the beach, when he and Ola were feeling bored and decided to swim as far away from home as they could, disregarding his mother’s home rules for his safety. “I liked the first time they peeped above the water and saw different kinds of people and how they looked at them as creatures big and small, tall, short, pale, brown, very dark brown playing in the shallow waters, trying to swim, too.”

“They seemed to have a round head, not eight tentacles, but four. The small creatures seemed to yell and a big hole opened up and noises belted out…..HOW different, how strange!” said Otto as he had not seen such a creature in his home space. Says Ciara: “Otto wanted to go a little closer and check out the aliens not knowing the fishermen had cast their nets the evening before, and he got caught in the net. The fishermen had already started to pull in their nets, and it was left to Ola, who was still on the outside to stay calm and find a way to rescue Otto.” “The book was easy to read”, says Ciara, “and I liked the drawings which made reading easier.”

Inquisitive Otto is on sale at Paper Based in the Normandie Hotel, and at Living Water Bookshop, Frederick Street.