cover image Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

Tomi Ungerer, Phaidon, $16.95 (36p) ISBN 978-0-7148-5766-4

Teddy bear narrator Otto belongs to David, a Jewish boy living in Germany; their world of games and pranks with David's friend Oskar turns dark when David and his parents are taken away (at which point he gives Otto to Oskar), and Oskar's father leaves for the front. In the chaos of bombing raids, Otto is found by a G.I., who is shot seconds later ("Look at him!" Charlie the G.I. later tells hospital nurses. "Believe it or not this teddy bear saved my life"). Years later in the U.S., Oskar rediscovers Otto in an antique store and, after their picture appears in the newspaper, David finds them, too. "Since our happy reunion I have kept myself busy pounding out this story on my typewriter," says Otto, shown in front of a typewriter, burning buildings floating in his memory behind him. Ungerer's illustrations—expressive, carefully worked paintings quite different from his previous books—present some potentially scary images; parents and teachers should prepare for questions. But Otto's tranquil voice allows Ungerer to tell his story at a safe remove, and his unvarnished honesty makes this a vital account. Ages 8–up. (Oct.)