Odder by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso

I fell in love with this book as reviewed by a colleague of mine at Shelf Awareness (here), and bought it for the six- and ten-year-old sisters who are my friends. But when it arrived I couldn’t let it go and so I read it first.

It’s every bit as delightful as it sounds in the above review, and I’m so glad I picked it up, and glad that I have young friends to inspire me. I loved the storytelling style: easy-reading, brief, free verse poems that speak plainly but also with lyricism (Odder’s front paws when she was just a pup were “dream-busy / small and soft as / a toddler’s mittens”). I loved Odder, of course, her name and her personality and frank responses to the world. What do I know about sea otters? but this story and characterization felt true to the natural world, and at the same time, offered many lessons applicable to other life forms. “Why simply dive when she could dazzle?” The ocean isn’t about morality, and there are no villains here; after a shark attack, Odder doesn’t blame the shark. “She’s seen enough to know / that this is how life is, / and this is how death comes.” (Spoiler alert: death has not come for Odder yet.) There are some excellent how-to poems: “how to rescue a stranded otter” offers important points about not rushing in; there are two versions of “how to say goodbye to an otter,” for both humans and otters. There’s a neat little poem called “keystones” that teach the meaning of ‘keystone species’ succinctly, which is a fine example of how Odder gives both naturalist lessons and broader ones.

I’m charmed, and so happy I spent some time with this book. Definitely recommend.


Rating: 9 clams.

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