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My pencil lines blurred, my eyes gritty with tiredness. Mother’s voice could have been coming from another room, it was that muffled. We were working by candlelight, a few crumbs of ginger cake and the remains of my bedtime milk – laced with honey and brandy – on a tray. It was so cosy working together in her four-poster bed, but now I wished we’d continued at the bureau where it was easier to stay awake. ‘Oh, you are fit to drop,’ said Mother, ‘that’s enough for tonight, dear heart. We haven’t even done your hair yet.’ She swung out of the blankets and padded to her dressing table to fetch the bundle of rags. I shook my head and the drowsy fog cleared enough for me to inspect the lines of my sketch. I was pleased with this hat design. Mother had said that the loops of gauze ribbon down one side would balance the large silk peony bloom that covered the entire base. That was what I had intended, but I didn’t say that. Mother had such an eye and I was happy she had taught me so well. That was why Fyfe’s Milliners had become so popular with the fashionable set. I smiled up at her.

About the book

England, 1893, and aquarium fever is at its height.

Twelve-year-old Vinnie Fyfe works in the tea-shop at Brighton aquarium, and waits for her milliner mother to return from Paris.

The arrival of a giant octopus changes her life for ever. Discovering a talent for art, Vinnie begins to draw the extraordinary beast.

She soon realises she can communicate with the octopus through colour and – as a gripping mystery begins to unfold – discovers what true courage really means …

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