Otto the Book Bear


Written and Illustrated by Katie Cleminson

Disney Hyperion Books, 2011

Otto was a book bear.  He lived in a book on a shelf in a house…and he was happiest when children read his book.

The plot in a nutshell:  A bear in a book has an adventure in the real world

Otto has a secret – when no one is looking at his book, he comes to life and can wander around the house, reading books and even doing some writing of his own. One day, his people move away while he is out of his book. So he packs a bag and leaps from the window, ready to embark on a big adventure. Because he is so tiny, no one in the outside world seems to notice him. He searches in vain for a new home and misses the comfort of his own book. Feeling downhearted, he keeps going until he discovers a library, with shelves filled with books. At the end of one shelf, he sees another book bear.  The two bears become friends and Otto meets lots of other book creatures as well. He has fun with his new friends and best of all, has lots of readers in his new library home.

Author/illustrator Katie Cleminson gives us a wonderful character in Otto, who manages to have an emotional range without ever saying a word. The book taps into the magic of having a storybook character actually walk off the page and have a life of their own outside of their story.  (I think it’s cool that we never find out anything about Otto’s original story.)  And, of course, being a library junkie from way back, I love that Otto finds his perfect home in a library and ends the book surrounded by literary character friends.

I want to read whatever book the sword-fighting alligator is from.

I want to read whatever book the sword-fighting alligator is from.

The illustrations are distinctive and lovely, with a dark outline around everything that almost gives each character the impression of being cut out and pasted on the page. The colors and expressions all work to give the artwork a softness that matches the story’s gentle nature.  I love the book’s final picture, with Otto and his new friend, Ernest, curled up together and sleeping.  The image evokes contentment and friendship and encapsulates Otto’s new life in the library. Be sure to note the differences in the book’s inside covers.  The front features rows of bookshelves and the back has the same picture, but with added characters enjoying time away from their books.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that circumstances put you in odd places sometimes, but if you look around, you are sure to find a place where you belong, no matter where you land.


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