Little Otter awakes in his cozy den and "tugs Sister's whiskers, wrestles Mama's tail," then heads off to crunch on clams for breakfast. He starts to wander off from their nook of the creek as his parents warn him to stay close. But no one, not his parents, not the seagull, nor the beaver, are able to dissuade the little rascal from exploring further and alone. After all, "he's a big otter now." His romp continues as he narrowly escapes the talons of an eagle, a beaver's falling tree, the jaws of a snapping turtle, a nettled fisherman's grasp, and finally a deadly cougar's pounce when his family swoops in and rescues him. "Slip! Slide! Down the hill, the otters dart and swoosh. Then whoooooooooosh! They hide inside their den," which is where "his paws stop trembling, he tucks tail to nose. He needs his family- no matter how big he grows." That slippery little otter learned an invaluable lesson on his utterly otterly day, I'd say!
Mary Casanova is an award-winning author of over twenty children's books (including contemporary novels, historical fiction novels, American Girl books, and picture books) and it shows. She really keeps my children on the edge of their seats/beds and brimming over with curiosity at every turn of the page. When they aren't gasping at each of Little Otter's astonishing escapes, they're imitating all the "CRACK" or "WHACK" sounds and rubbing their bellies when "his tummy rumbles- grumbles."
On her website and in an interview with Ella Johnson, Casanova shares her journey to becoming an author. "Ever since high school—when I discovered the power of words—I wanted to be a writer," she states. "My love of the writing craft helped me get through college with a degree in English, and it helped propel me after college to learn from other published authors at various writing workshops and conferences." Although as a child, she says, "I was a reluctant reader, so I strive to write books kids can’t put down." Mission accomplished.
Casanova and her husband live on the Minnesota-Canadian border. She describes it so clearly as a place "where there's more wildlife than people." Among some of her neighbors are eagles, moose, black bears, and wolves but, most importantly, are the otters. If you've ever had the pleasure to see otters in action, like my family and I have- not in the wild, but at the Dallas World Aquarium- you can certainly appreciate her accurate tale of their habitat and activities!
The precious little otter face on the cover by Ard Hoyt captured my heart. I love the combination of sketching, watercolors, and that wide little grin framed with a tiny nose and whiskers. Raised on picture books, "he discovered that with a white sheet of paper he could change the weather." After Hoyt graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, "he has illustrated over 15 children's books including two New York Times Best Sellers (I'm a Manatee by John Lithgow and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes To School by Laurie Halse Anderson)." His depictions transport readers to the wet and wild world of otters by leading us to hear waves lapping under the dock, draw in the aromas on morning fishing trips among the pine trees, and to experience the cool, damp, moss-covered mud den of an otter family.
Utterly Otterly Day (published in the U.S. in 2008, not to be confused with The Utterly Otterleys by Mairi Hedderwick which was published in the U.K. in 2006) is an exciting new addition to our Blueberry Books and recieves a fantastic 4 out of 5 blueberries from my girls!
If you want to broaden the excitement of this book, check out this great selection of otter stuffed animals and products starting at just $3.99 here at stuffedsafari.com! Puppets always enrich story time, whether they're the narrator or a commentator, and this one is my favorite! If you're in the UK, you can order an otter toy here!
HERE! And check out the sequel, Utterly Otterly Night, next!
And, only because my girls couldn't get enough otters, I'll leave you with some cute photos: