Author Chat With Randi Sonenshine (The Den That Octopus Built), Plus Giveaway! ~US/CAN Only

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Randi Sonenshine (The Den That Octopus Built)!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!




Meet the Author: Randi Sonenshine

Randi Sonenshine grew up exploring the wonders of woods and watery places on Maryland’s Eastern shore. She is the author of nonfiction picture books, The Nest That Wren Built, The Lodge that Beaver Built, and The Den That Octopus Built, as well as the illustrated historical fiction chapter book, The Inside Name. Her books have earned starred reviews and appeared on many notable lists, including the Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, and the National Aquarium’s Favorite Conservation-themed Books. In addition to writing for children, Randi is a literacy specialist and instructional coach in northwest Georgia, where she does her best writing accompanied by birdsong and a good pot of Earl Grey tea.

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About the Book: The Den That Octopus Built

Follow one of the ocean’s most mysterious animals in this warm but candid look at its dramatic life cycle, from the creators of The Nest That Wren Built.

These are the shells she wears like a sheath,
keeping her safe from Tiger Shark’s teeth
when she’s far from the den that Octopus built . . .

The solitary and ingenious octopus is a master of disguise and invention, creating her den out of the objects of the ocean, from shells and rocks to tiny glass shards. Using creative methods of hunting and construction, the octopus prepares for the biggest task of her life: motherhood. With one last, poignant gesture of love, the mother octopus sends her hatchlings on their way, starting a new cycle of life for the tiny offspring who face peril of their own. Offering deeply informative back matter, including an author’s note, a glossary, and fascinating “octo-knowledge” (did you know that octopuses have nine brains, including one in each of their independently operating arms?), this third in a series from author Randi Sonenshine and illustrator Anne Huntercontinues the work of gently introducing children to the reality of the animal world.

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~Author Chat~


YABC:  What inspired you to write this book?

My agent, Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary, called me one day after having watched My Octopus Teacher. She said, “You need to watch this. It’s your next book.” She was right. I was completely sucked in and plunged headfirst into the research that same day.

YABC: Which is your favorite animal you have researched so far?

They have all been fascinating, but the octopus is by far the most compelling and exciting. (See below!)

YABC: What fact did you find most interesting or surprising?

There are so many incredible facts about octopuses, not the least of which is the correct plural form I just used, rather than the commonly mistaken word, octopi! Like me, people are always shocked about that one. Also, they don’t have tentacles; their appendages are called arms, which have suckers on their entire length and can perform more complex actions than tentacles, which only have suckers on the ends. Octopuses’ arms, and even suckers, can act independently of each other, and not only that…they can smell, feel, AND taste with their suckers. Imagine being able to smell and taste your food with your fingers before putting it in your mouth!  I’m also thoroughly enchanted by octopus “gardens” and their penchant for collecting trinkets. See what I mean? There are so many amazing facts that I couldn’t fit them all in the book. I went through quite a few revision rounds with my editor (Liz Bicknell) to cut back on the back matter.

YABC:  What research did you do for this book?

Researching this book was so much fun! I read…a lot! Websites (National Geographic, NOAA, and The Cephalod Page were great for general information), blogs, research papers, database entries, news articles…you name it! I also read (and adored) Sy Montgomery’s Soul of an Octopus, which I highly recommend, watched YouTube videos, and followed experts on social media. Two of my favorite Instagram accounts were (and still are!) @theoctogirl, which is the account for Chelsea Bennice, a marine ecologist based in Florida, and @octonation, a nonprofit organization. I also interviewed and consulted with experts. Dr. Danny Gleason, Professor of Biology at Georgia Southern University and Director of the Institute for Coastal Plain Science was tremendously helpful and so gracious with his time and expertise. Without a doubt, though, the most memorable research was a close encounter with Rita, the Georgia Aquarium’s resident Giant Pacific Octopus, and her aquarist, Zelie Wooten. I got a behind-the-scenes experience, interacting with and feeding Rita. (She loved the shrimp, but was not impressed with the mackerel!) The best part? She thanked me with a hand, – well, armshake.

YABC: If you could only write one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

If I had to pick, I would say lyrical nature picture books like this one. I always thought I would be more of a novelist, but this genre is so wholly me. It ticks all my boxes as a literacy educator, nature-lover, and poet.

YABC:   How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within?

I’ve been an educator for over thirty years, and though I mostly interact with middle and high schoolers, I do get frequent opportunities to spend time with young children. Their questions and enthusiasm resonate a lot with me, so I try to keep that energy close while I’m writing picture books. I also don’t avoid “big” words because I think they’ll be difficult. I think it’s important to honor and spark the curiosity and intellect of young people. For example, my agent wasn’t sure I should use the words reptilian and persnickety in The Nest That Wren Built, but I felt strongly about including them. Readers, even young children, are adept at using context and illustrations to make meaning. New vocabulary also provides teachable moments if the book is being read aloud, as well as opportunities to use the glossary. Plus, it’s just fun to say those words aloud!

YABC:   What can readers expect to find in your books?

With my companion books from Candlewick, readers can expect to find the most intriguing facts about the featured animals and their homes presented in a way that (I hope!) is fun, engaging, and pleasing to read aloud. There is also much for information for curious minds in the back matter. Readers will also find illustrations that are scientifically accurate, while at the same time, kid-friendly and endearing. Anne Hunter has a remarkable gift for that! She camouflages other critters in the text. She even has “easter eggs” hidden on every page in The Nest that Wren Built (an ant) and The Den that Octopus Built (a puffer fish), which adds another layer of fun to the reading.

YABC: What is your favorite snack when writing?

It’s as if you knew me! I’m really bad about snacking while writing. (I think it’s a procrastination thing.) In fact, just while writing this, I’ve eaten two handfuls of almonds, a macaroon, two pieces of saltwater taffy, and a slice of leftover frittata. And Earl Grey tea. Always Earl Grey tea!

YABC: If you were able to be any animal which would you choose?

Well, an octopus, of course! Who wouldn’t want to be able to camouflage in an instant, use jet propulsion, regrow a limb, and slip through anything bigger than your beak? Of course there are downsides; they face extraordinary obstacles as hatchlings (few survive!) and most species only live for about a year and a half.

YABC:    What’s your least favorite word or expression and why?

 “Can’t.” Throughout my years as an educator, I have heard so many young people say that word in relation to something they are trying to learn, and as a writer, it drifts through my head unbidden more often than I’d like. It’s self-defeating, to say the least. I think it can and should be banished!

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

Snack. A lot. (See above!)

YABC:  What fandom would you write for if you had time?

Anything Jane Austen!

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

I have another nonfiction picture book that I’ve been working on. I’ve done most of the research, and I’ve been playing around with different ways to approach and structure the text, so it’s time to start drafting.

YABC: What is your favorite holiday or tradition and why?

Thanksgiving. Food and family. What more could you want?

YABC:   Is there anything that you would like to add?

For those who want to learn more about octopuses, some great websites are,, and

Thank you for having me!




Author: Randi Sonenshine

Illustrator: Anne Hunter

Release Date: May 21, 2024

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Genre: Nonfiction picture book

Age Range: 4-8




*Giveaway Details*

Five (5) winners will receive a copy of The Den That Octopus Built (Randi Sonenshine) ~US/CAN Only


*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway!*


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8 thoughts on “Author Chat With Randi Sonenshine (The Den That Octopus Built), Plus Giveaway! ~US/CAN Only”

  1. araskov says:

    I can’t wait to see all the pictures and read the lyrical story. It looks so enjoyable!

  2. This looks lovely!

  3. The most perfect book to add to our Zoo library! Must add this to our wish list

  4. astromgren says:

    What a cute read!

  5. Book looks so good!

  6. ltecler says:

    This sounds fantastic! Love the cover art.

  7. The cover is beautiful and I can’t wait to read this book.

Comments are closed.