Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever is a picture book about the joys of best-friendship. Otis and Sydney are two little brown bears who look quite similar to one another, and have very similar tastes. They become best friends, and after that they do everything together. One year, Otis decides to throw a surprise birthday party for Sydney. He plans lots of fun activities, but a mistake on Otis' part very nearly ruins everything. Not to worry, though. Best-friendship triumphs.
OK, so it's a tiny bit sappy. But it worked for me, and I think that kids will love it. Otis and Sydney are both adorable, with their wide smiles and laughing eyes, and their respective overalls and suspenders. They like to do fun things, like play tug-of-war and wear silly costumes and play the harmonica. There's an enormous birthday cake. I think that Laura Numeroff has a pretty keen sense of what kids will find enjoyable.
But what really makes the book work for me is the same thing that I like about James Marshall's George and Martha (who are clearly literary predecessors to Otis and Sydney). The friendship is strong, and completely unthreatened by any mistakes or mishaps. It's not a book about overcoming challenges in friendship, or anything like that. We just have two little bears who are best friends, in the simplest, purest sense of the word. They like to do the same things, and spend time together. It's reassuring. It's comforting.
I love Dan Andreasen's pen and ink (with digital coloring) illustrations. The pen and ink is used to give everything a detailed, cross-hatched texture, from Sydney and Otis' fur to the grass to the rope used for the tug-of-war. And the expressions on the faces of Otis and Sydney and their friends exude such joy. There are lots of small vignettes on many of the pages, keeping the action flowing, and making the book accessible to impatient young readers.
In short, Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever is going on our "keep" shelf. I expect it to garner many reads. And I hope that Otis and Sydney return soon for other adventures.
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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