cover image Otter and Odder: 
A Love Story

Otter and Odder: A Love Story

James Howe, illus. by Chris Raschka. Candlewick, $14 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4174-0

Love at first sight befalls a hungry otter and the fish he intends to eat for dinner. Soul-searching ensues. “I am in love with my food source,” the dismayed otter admits, gazing into Myrtle’s “round, sweet, glistening eyes.” Otter’s carnivorous friends mutter, “It isn’t natural,” and Otter has no answer when Myrtle asks, “But must you eat my friends? My family?” Rather than receive an automatic “happily ever after,” Otter has to explore alternative menu options to keep his true love by his side. While Howe (Brontorina) speaks to younger readers with this “odder” romance, the important questions it raises wouldn’t be out of place in his middle-grade fiction. To be fair, the male meat-eater holds the cards in this relationship, although Myrtle returns Otter’s affections after an initial flight instinct. Raschka, who also merged the existential and the piscine in Arlene Sardine, provides abstract and wonderfully childlike crayon-and-watercolor images of a serpentine brook, rippling and meandering as the otter and fish cavort. Howe’s story reaches beyond its target audience and presents a lovely, unpreachy allegory for relationships that fall outside the mainstream. Ages 6–10. Illustrator’s agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Oct.)