Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass

Charlesbridge. Oct. 2019. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781623540982.
PreS-Gr 2–This charmingly illustrated adventure introduces Milton, a pessimistic otter, who crosses paths with Odie, an upbeat one, on a frozen lake. For the most part, Milton and his pessimism are confined to the left-hand page while Odie, the eternal optimist, is on the right. The parallel narrative tells the story of both otters struggling to catch a fish. Milton hates every moment, and Odie sees each mistake and defeat as a sparkling opportunity. The pencil and crayon illustrations are warm and welcoming, despite the cold setting. Milton and Odie are appropriately fuzzy and decked out in warm hats and cozy flannels. The lake is a strange ecosystem, with Milton’s side being dark, stormy, and filled with nasty-looking barracuda, and Odie’s side is sunny, blue, and filled with happy fish chewing bubble gum. Of course, these illustrations display the otters’ contrasting viewpoints on their current situation, and eventually Odie’s sunny demeanor triumphs over Milton’s negative thoughts after the two team up to catch a fish. Their victory leaves them both identically merry, while unintentionally erasing the only aspect of Milton’s personality we’ve been shown. Seeing the power of positive thinking is a valuable lesson, but the unbalanced narrative suggests that a pessimistic outlook should be entirely squashed out, which is, in itself, a paradoxically pessimistic view of world outlooks.
VERDICT Recommended for glass half-full types who don’t wish to consider the value of cynicism and a balanced worldview.

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