Fern and Otto: A Story about Two Best Friends

Schwartz & Wade/Random/. Sept. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593121306.
PreS-Gr 2–The creator of Little Fox in the Forest introduces friends Fern and Otto in this beautiful book about appreciating the little things in life. Fern, a large anthropomorphised bear, is creating a book for her best friend (and housemate) Otto, a tiger-striped cat. Otto decides the story is boring, so the friends go in search of adventure. They come across a tortoise and a hare in a race, a girl eating porridge in a house full of bear pictures, a red-cloaked girl and a wolf, and, ultimately, a witch with an edible house, who invites them in. At that, they quickly head home, where Otto goes to bed, and Fern completes her story about their everyday adventures, which Otto predictably loves. Graegin’s text is concise, effectively flipping between third-person narration and speech bubbles to tell the story. The digitally colored pencil illustrations are quaint and full of details, with an old-fashioned feel. The animals have a cuddly, stuffed-animal appearance. Fern’s own book is depicted in its entirety, and drawn with a softer, perhaps more childlike look. Graegin seeds the story with visual references to fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes, and even has cameos from her own Little Fox; the gentle moral is so subtly embedded that child readers will likely agree without ever realizing it is there.
VERDICT The whole work is deceptively simple yet visually complex, encouraging close inspection and multiple rereads. Libraries will want to find a place on their shelves for this delightful friendship story.

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