Joy Magazine

A family project

A local family pulled together to publish a children's book nearly 80 years in the making
Barbara Haasis Bean of Ashland is the author of “Otto the Octopus (Who Couldn’t Dress Himself).”Julia Moore

Six decades after a young girl penned a children's story that her beloved father would eventually illustrate for his grandchildren, a family tale about a character named Otto the Octopus is offering inspiration for young children learning to dress themselves for school.

Former Rogue Valley resident Jennifer Bean found a yellowed manuscript about the eight-legged sea creature in an old filing cabinet in the 1980s.

Book signing

Barbara Haasis Bean will sign copies of her book at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland.

In memory of her grandfather, Ferdinand Haasis, and her mother, 92-year-old Ashland resident Barbara Haasis Bean, Jennifer compiled the book and had it published in time for Father's Day.

Recalling her father as a workaholic, the elder Bean recently talked about writing the story about the young octopus learning to dress himself for school when she was a young girl.

Back in the 1930s or '40s, Haasis used watercolors to illustrate the story of Otto at his daughter's request, for her daughter and son.

Pleased to hold a published version in her hands on a May afternoon, the elder Bean smiled at the grinning octopus clad in bright blue jeans, suspenders and a red and white shirt.

In the tale of determination, Otto is encouraged by his father to learn to dress himself before he begins attending school. Wanting to help her offspring, Otto's mother devises a color-coded system of strings and colored socks to teach Otto how to get ready each day.

"I read this a good long while ago about this octopus learning to get dressed by himself, and the pictures look really nice," said the elder Bean, rubbing her fingers over the smooth pages.

"I think parents will read it to their children, and it might even be fun for little kids to read it by themselves. It talks all about shoes and clothes."

Asked about release of the book for Father's Day, Bean remembered her father working "all the time" but being a great artist and one of her "favorite people" to be around.

"He worked all the time, but he loved his family," she said.

The younger Bean, who now lives in Albuquerque, said she had longed to publish the story of Otto since its discovery a quarter century ago.

"This is such a treasure for our family. I have held onto it and twice tried to get it published," she recalled.

"I have never wanted to get it published for any other reason than showing Mom that she wrote a book that she can actually hold in her hands. She has two grandchildren, my kids, and three step-grandchildren, who are the parents of her 10 great-grandchildren. They call her the 'Great Bean Grandma.' "

Born Jan. 29, 1921, Barbara Bean's parents were fire lookouts in Flagstaff, Ariz. Family lore tells a tale of her mother riding by horseback, then train, to deliver her daughter at a hospital in Albuquerque, N.M.

Raised in Carmel, Calif., where her father would read Shakespeare at the breakfast table, Bean's eventual move to Ashland had much to do with the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A professor of botany, Ferdinand Haasis, born in 1889, graduated from Yale University and worked in forests around the country. Prior to his death, he wrote a number of books on plants and trees. An avid artist, he was featured in the book, "Artists in California (1786-1940)."

Settling with his family in California in 1930, Haasis and his wife, Bessie, founded the Haasis Hikers, a group of hiking volunteers on the Monterey Peninsula that continues today.

Karen Giese, "Great Bean Grandma's" caregiver, said the book was a tribute to the Haasis-Bean family and to the 92-year-old's enduring spirit.

"It's bright and simple, and yet what's so cute about it is Barbara is a pretty orderly person, and this is about an octopus that couldn't remember which shoe to put on first because, of course, he had eight feet," Giese said.

"Barbara is a delight and so witty. It's wonderful that her daughter held on to this book for all those years for it to finally be published. It's just very special for this story to be shared."

"Otto the Octopus" is available at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland. For information about the book, including a planned signing event, call Giese at 541-821-7022.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.