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

Sunday 13 October 2013

Review: Otto in the City

Recently, I had a really bad day. A dear friend said to me: 'Curl up in bed with a divine picture book. That always makes you feel better.'

So I did.

And Otto in the City was my book of choice.

Otto and his dad are going on a car ride to the city. They leave their house and off they go--through the 'burbs and past the school bus (containing fish on their way to school), through a major intersection and roundabout, and along major freeway.

There's so much to see on the road! There are cars and buses and bikes and semi-trailers and garbage trucks and ice cream vans and firetrucks and pizza-delivery-vespas and a dog in a large rollerskate. There's an eye-boggling assortment of vehicles, and as Otto and his dad near the city, a landscape of buildings and shops and squares and parks also unfold.

Otto in the City is an astonishing and entertaining book. Its large-format, sturdy card pages provide the necessary structure for lengthy perusing--the operative word being lengthy. Kids (and adults lying in bed after a bad day) could spend hours perusing the overwhemingly busy pages, soaking in the many and varied sites and sights--spattered with all manner of imaginative ideas.

Tom Schamp's imagination has indeed been set free in this book. As both author and illustrator, he has seamlessly melded image with text, in a meandering, informative and exciting way. Each page has new and varied visual surprises, though I also love how Tom has kept certain vehicles and characters consistent in the book, like the pizza delivery guy, whose pizza stack gradually depletes as the book unfolds.

Another wonderful thing about this book is its unique loop system. As Otto and his dad travel along the roads and through the city, and reach the end of the book, they (and the reader) can turn the book around and upside down, and go back the way they came, with the story continuing along in a loop-like fashion ... all the way back home.

I love Otto in the City for its unique, imaginative freedom, and its fun and its divinely-illustrated pages, filled to capacity with more than you could ever imagine. It certainly brought out the child in me.

And yes, it made my bad day a whole lot better.

Tom Schamp is a Belgian author who has illustrated over 20 books for children, and has also worked on magazines, newspapers, posters, calendars, toys and more. Tom has twice been awarded the Boekenpauw Award, an annual Flemish prize for the most beautifully illustrated children's book. Otto in the City is his first book published in English.

Title: Otto in the City
Author/Illustrator: Tom Schamp
Publisher: Tate, $29.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781849761673
For ages: 2+
Type: Picture Book