Book: I Am Otter
Author: Sam Garton
Age Range: 3-7
I Am Otter by Sam Garton is the story of Otter, who lives with a young man he calls "Otter Keeper". When Otter Keeper goes to work, Otter, despite having his favorite teddy bear, and many toys, to keep him company, gets bored. One day, Otter decides to open a restaurant in the house. When things don't go well, Otter blames Teddy. But when Teddy disappears, he learns a valuable lesson about appreciating one's friends.
It's all delightfully silly. The messes that Otter makes are truly epic, and will be appreciated by kids. The patience with which Otter Keeper stays up all night to find the lost teddy, and the exhaustion with which he faces the next day, will be appreciated by parents.
Garton's text is colloquial, making the book accessible to preschoolers. Like this:
"Hi! I am Otter.
No one really knows where I came
from. Otter Keeper says that he found
me in a box on his doorstep one day."
Actually, Otter bears a certain resemblance to Paddington Bear: both are talking animals that live with humans that get into preschooler-type mischief, yet spend large chunks of time without any supervision. Except that Otter's toys, shown in vivid, digitally rendered illustrations, are much more modern. Garton uses a mixture of small vignettes and full page illustrations to capture Otter's antics. The illustrations reward attention to detail, as when we see Otter trying to keep Otter Keeper from leaving for work by hiding the alarm clock in the fish bowl (to the visible annoyance of the fish.
There's also what may be a nod to Winnie-the-Pooh in the illustrations, as Otter hangs ill-spelled signs around the house. When the restaurant doesn't work out, a sign says: "CLOSD: Ples go home now."
I've learned that I Am Otter started out as a UK-based blog, which is still active. I believe that Otter has quite a fan base. But of course the book I Am Otter has to stand on its own - the four-year-old reader hearing the story in bed will not be consulting the blog for context. And I think that it does. Otter's story is straightforward silliness, with just the tiniest hint of sentiment (the finding of and renewed appreciation of the lost Teddy). The illustrations are kid-friendly (my daughter sought out the book as soon as she saw the cover), and sure to make any reader smile. I recommend I Am Otter for home or library use.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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