Time for another review of one of the 2012 CYBILS Fictiona Picture Book nominations.
Written by James Howe, illustrated by Chris Raschka
Publisher: Candlewick, Oct 9th, 2012
Hardback: 40 pages
Themes: biracial love, differences, otters, fish, nonconformity
“The day Otter found love, he wasn’t looking for it. He was looking for dinner.”
It was a very unexpected encounter the day Otter realized he was in love with what naturally would be a food source for him, Myrtle, the fish. It isn’t love at first sight for Myrtle, whose initial reaction is one of survival, “Please don’t eat me”. However, her heart soon turns to thoughts of love. The play and read stories to one another, despite reprimands that “this is not the way of the otter”. This is a classic love story of the Romeo & Juliet genre, falling in love with someone who is naturally one’s enemy, of a different: race, family, species etc Unlike Romeo and juliet, Otter does overcome these differences, after some helpful tips on compromise from the wise old beaver, and chooses to follow his heart with a happy picture book appropriate conclusion. This theme of following your heart will be appreciated by children and adults alike, the subthemes of nonconformity and biracial relationships, will I suspect be picked up more by the adults alone.
Why I like this book:
I like the theme of finding kindred spirits in unusual places and overcoming prejudice and common practice and stereotypes, in the “way of an otter”, to make the relationship work. The book can be read on different levels and consequently certainly had adult as well as kid-appeal. The absurdity and depth of the story are appealing to me and I enjoy Raschka’s style, in this case, very childlike illustrations in watercolor with thick pencilled outlines, which I found altogether appropriate for this text. I would love to read this to some children and see their reaction, as what appeals to an adult is not always as child-friendly. Let me know in the comments if you have read this to your children and what their response was.
Resources: A note from the author.
River Otter Facts from National Geographic Kids.