Review of Odder

by Katherine Applegate ; illus. by Charles Santoso
Intermediate     Feiwel    288 pp.         g
9/22     978-1-250-14742-4     $16.99
Library ed.  979-8-88578-266-1    $22.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-14743-1    $9.99

Applegate and Santoso (Willodeen, rev. 9/21) pair for another creature story, this one a verse novel about an otter named Odder who lives off the coast of California near Monterey Bay. The tale is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Queen of Play,” a reference to Odder’s daredevil nature. But the opening poems are about sharks, foreshadowing what is about to happen. On this day Odder can’t resist going a little too far, despite her more cautious friend Kairi’s warnings, and is attacked by a great white shark; she manages to make her way to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The second section flashes back to three years earlier, when as a baby Odder became separated from her mother and was rescued and painstakingly taught survival skills by the aquarium’s aquarists. The final section returns to the present, as Odder, too injured to be returned to the wild, becomes a surrogate parent to another otter pup that has lost its mother. Applegate grounds the story in scientific fact, slipping in ­interesting details in a lyrical way, as when she talks about keystone species, “nature’s glue, / holding habitats together.” “Without otters, / sea urchins, purple as a bruise, / gobble kelp forests / until the ocean floor / becomes a barren wasteland.” Santoso’s tender black-and-white drawings, together with the large type, will make this novel very accessible and appealing to young animal lovers. Back matter includes a glossary; an author’s note about Monterey Bay Aquarium and the real-life stories on which Odder’s is based; and a selected bibliography.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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