If You Take Away the Otter

Candlewick. May 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763689346.
Gr 2-4–The conditions needed to maintain the health of a kelp forest’s ecosystem involve interdependent factors. Buhrman-Deever explains the science behind what happened to kelp forests when hunters brought the otter to near extinction in the early 1900s. Why were otters desirable? Their fur, which has “around one million hairs in a space the size of a quarter,” is extremely warm. However, the international fur trade was not beneficial to everyone. As a result of the industry boom and an influx of explorers, Indigenous people experienced violence and disease. The otter population was drastically reduced. Otters helped keep an ecological balance by preventing their prey, the urchin, from overwhelming the kelp forests. The decreasing otter population allowed the abundance of urchins to decimate the kelp forest. In 1911, the United States, Russia, Japan, and Great Britain signed the International Fur Seal Treaty, which “stopped non-Indigenous sea otter hunting and selling of otter furs.” In time, the otters returned. The luminous illustrations and clear text help young readers understand the causes and effects of the otter fur trade. The book’s large type will appeal to younger readers. Facts printed in small type are suited for experienced readers. Back matter consists of a summary of the book’s content, a selected bibliography, further reading, and websites.
VERDICT A solid purchase for all public and elementary school libraries.

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