Otter Out of Water

Kathy-jo Wargin, Author, John Bendall-Brunello, Illustrator
Kathy-jo Wargin, illus. by John Bendall-Brunello. Sleeping Bear, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58536-431-2
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Wargin (S Is for Snowman) plays in the loopy “what if” territory of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give... series with this story of a river-dwelling otter that follows two kids home and causes chaos. Most of the book is written in second-person, and the rhyme scheme is suggestive of a campfire singalong: “Now what if that otter follows you home?/ Will you hop, will you skip?/ Will you whistle and yip?/ Will you hide in the bushes to give him the slip?/ What if that otter follows you home?” Working in loose watercolor and pencil, British illustrator Bendall-Brunello (Peep Leap) creates a mischievous, friendly-looking otter and two siblings that look nervous about their furry pursuer but warm up to him, feeding him popcorn for lunch and giving him a bath in the kitchen sink before animal control finally arrives. It’s only in the final pages that the story falters, with the narrative suddenly switching to first-person (“So what happened to us on that very next day?/ We better not say”) and ending inconclusively with a full-scale otter invasion. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
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