FICTION

Otto Goes North

Gecko Pr. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781776572410.
COPY ISBN
K-Gr 2–Otto, a ring-tailed lemur, has spent countless days biking north to visit his friends and to paint the northern lights. But when he tries to paint out in the cold he discovers that his southern fur coat doesn’t keep him warm in this icy northern world. His friends Nils and Lisa, a bear and a lynx, are worried about their poor chilly friend. While Otto recuperates in the sauna with a mug of hot blueberry soup, the two friends consider how to help him stay warm. Inspired by the slightly inexplicable presence of a book about wool, the two friends decide to use their own fur to make a sweater from scratch for their friend. Though a bit contrived, the story’s premise lends itself perfectly to a simple explanation of the process of making wool, or in this case, fur, into a sweater. The graphite and acrylic paint illustrations feature detailed recreations of mountains, wood burning stoves, and a sauna complete with birch logs and a wooden spoon for pouring water. The text is full of playful and funny scenes, such as when Otto rides into the story on his bright red bike, ringing his bell, “like mad, enough to be annoying.” While the story includes details of the sweater-making process, it is not intended to be a primer and the voice reflects the youth and initial inexperience of the two friends with a natural increase in jargon as they learn. Near the beginning, Nils and Lisa know they need a, “steering wheel thing,” which turns out to be a spinning wheel, but later under the tutelage of Lena the fox, they work diligently to “spin” and “card” the fur into yarn. The resulting sweater is as much a work of art as the painting of the northern lights that Otto is able to complete while wearing his new garb.
VERDICT A perfect story to pair with a lesson on fiber art or dyeing. Recommended for general purchase and for makerspaces everywhere.

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