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Otto the Book Bear

Picture Book Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Cover of Otto the Book Bear children's picture book
Disney Hyperion Books
Otto the Book Bear is the imaginative story of a bear who lives in a book but comes alive and has adventures when no one is around. When Otto loses his home, it takes quite a search before he finds the perfect new home. I recommend this picture book by Katie Cleminson for children 3 and older.

Otto the Book Bear: The Story

Otto is a book bear. He lives in a children's book in a house with children and is "happiest when children read his book." But what the children don't know is that when no one is there to see, Otto comes to life, walks right out of his book and has fun exploring the house, reading other books and doing his own writing on the family's old typewriter.

Everything changes when the family packs up all of their things, including Otto's book, and moves away while Otto is not in his book, leaving him all alone in an empty house. That doesn't suit Otto, so after making a plan and packing a bag, he's off seeking adventure.

However, the outside world is crowded with people and Otto, who is a little book-size bear, is overwhelmed. He searches all over the city for a new home but he doesn't feel welcome anywhere. Otto is getting discouraged, but he keeps looking until he finds the perfect place - a library! There he discovers lots of books, a book bear named Ernest and lots of other book creatures. Not only do they all have fun together but, best of all, at the library there are lots of children to read about Otto, making him "the happiest book bear of all."

Otto the Book Bear: The Illustrations

Otto is a most appealing creature and Katie Cleminson's illustrations provide an affectionate look at Otto who looks more like a very small stuffed toy than a real bear. The artist makes good use of white space to focus the reader's attention on what's most important. We first meet Otto when he is sitting in his book. It is fun then to see him as he climbs out of the book, a three-dimensional bear who moves with grace as he explores his surroundings.

Cleminson's double-page illustration showing what Otto finds when he goes out looking for a new home - people and more people rushing through the city - arouse our sympathy for the little bear who looks tiny in comparison. Otto looks so lonely as he walks through the rainy city, and our sympathy is further aroused when we see Otto taking refuge in an empty tin can, surrounded by litter. When Otto finally discovers the library and all of the joys it has to offer, we feel joy right along with Otto, and much of that is the result of Cleminson's illustrations.

Author and Illustrator Katie Cleminson

Katie Cleminson lives in the UK where her children's books are published by Jonathon Cape, an Imprint of Random House Children's Books. Otto the Book Bear was first published by Jonathan Cape before being published in the U.S. by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

Cleminson graduated from North Wales School of Art with honors in Illustration for Children's Publishing. In 2009, she won the Booktrust Best Emerging Illustrator Award for her picture book Box of Tricks and in 2011 was honored as one of the Booktrust Best New Illustrators for the year. Cleminson is also the author and illustrator of the picture book Wake Up! It's going to be a busy day..., which is titled Cuddle Up, Good Night in the United States. (Sources: Katie Cleminson Web site, Playing by the Book Interview with Katie Cleminson)

Otto the Book Bear: My Recommendation

There is something magical about the idea of "book creatures" who come alive and have adventures. After all, characters in books come to life in our minds when we are reading or listening to a good story. Otto is a particularly appealing character and children will be rooting for the little bear as he seeks a new home. While the publisher recommends the book for ages 3-7, I think it could also be effectively used as a creative prompt with 8 year olds because of the fun they'll have creating their own stories about their own book creatures. (Hyperion Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781423145622)

Other Recommended Picture Books

For another picture book about an appealing bear, one that is also a good bedtime story, I recommend Amy Hest's Kiss Good Night, with illustrations by Anita Jeram. For a picture book about a bear that celebrates the joy of reading aloud, I recommend A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley, with illustrations by Jim LaMarche. If you are looking for a picture book that celebrates libraries and librarians, I recommend The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, which librarian Carla Morris wrote and Brad Sneed illustrated.

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