'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 11 November 2010

Review: Otto

Oh, where do I start? After all, this is a Phaidon book (I have a bit of a Phaidon love affair going on, you see) so it has to be good. But still – where do I start with Otto?

First published in 1999, you don’t have to love teddy bears to love Otto. But you do have to have a heart of steel to read this book. Set during World War II, this is the story of a teddy bear owned by a Jewish boy – David. The bear is most beloved and spends many hours of fun with David and his best friend Oskar.

One day, the boys are making the teddy bear type on a typewriter when a jar of purple ink is spilled on the bear’s head, giving him a distinctive stain. Nonetheless, he is a very well-loved bear.

When David begins wearing a yellow star on his jacket, and finally, is taken (along with his parents) away by the military, the young lad hands Otto over to his best friend Oskar.

Soon, Oskar’s father is called to war, leaving Oskar alone with his mother and his bear. As the war rages, bombs begin dropping on the city and Otto is blown free of the exploding buildings, only to be plucked from the rubble by an allied solider – an American, who is immediately shot through the chest – right through Otto.

But the soldier survives, thanks to Otto taking much of the bullet, and when he takes the bear home to the States, Otto appears on the front page of the newspaper – receiving a medal for bravery.

The soldier gives Otto to his daughter who absolutely adores the bear, but one fateful day, the bear gets taken by bullies and thrown in the trash, where he is found, cleaned up and sat for many years in the window of an antique store.

What happens at the end of the story is nothing short of a miracle… thanks to his purple ink stain, Otto is recognized by someone very special – and the ensuing reunion will have you in tears. Lush with scrumptiously retro and emotive illustrations, this is a poignantly beautiful, powerful story of survival, friendship and the insanity of war. And the loyalty of the teddy bear.

Title: Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Author/Illustrator: Tomi Ungerer
Publisher: Phaidon, A$24.95RRP
Publication Date: 2010
Format: Hardcover with dustjacket
ISBN: 9780714857664
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book