Do Unto Otters


Written and Illustrated by Laurie Keller

Henry Holt and Company, 2007

Hello, Mr. Rabbit.  We’re your new neighbors, the OTTERS.

The plot in a nutshell:  A rabbit is worried about his new otter neighbors, so he outlines the ways he would like them to behave.

Ew.  That rabbit deserves an apology for sure.  Maybe even a make-up ice cream cone.

Ew. That rabbit deserves an apology for sure. Maybe even a make-up ice cream cone.

This very clever book addresses the topic of manners in a way that is funny and smart and not at all heavy-handed.  Mr. Rabbit talks to Mr. Owl about his new neighbors, feeling unsure since he has never met any otters before and doesn’t know how to act around them.  Mr. Owl suggests that he treat otters the way he would like otters to treat him.  (Cute, right?)  So Mr. Rabbit goes over the list of ways he would like for otters to behave, including saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and being considerate, honest and kind.  Fun examples of all of these are included, as well as key phrases represented in different languages.

Author/illustrator Laurie Keller has put together a book that almost reads like a comic book, with its cartoon characters and sidebar conversations.  There are so many little funny bits and pieces; sometimes you don’t know where to start reading first.  All of the cartoons depict examples of the kind of behavior that Mr. Rabbit is hoping for, which gives you and your children specific situations to discuss.  They also play up some of the differences between the two species and the ways that they accept those differences, while still remaining friends.  Always a good thing to emphasize in any book about dealing with others.

Weston Woods has produced an animated video version of the book, which you can find in its entirety on Youtube.  Whether you read the book or watch the movie (or both!), I think you’ll find that there are lots of great lessons in this book and that it’s a wonderful way to start a dialogue with your child about how we can be an example of how we’d like the world to be.   And maybe not just children, either.  I know a few adults who could use a reminder…

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that the Golden Rule still rules.


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