Review by Molly
As otters go Oscar Otter is a most mischievous young fellow. Sliding on his snow slide Oscar suddenly bumps into a beaver. Oscar decides he will build the world’s longest otter slide. Oscar’s long suffering Dad suggests that maybe the world’s longest slide might not be the best idea.
Oscar set out despite the warning to build that l – o – n – g slide. Otter travels far up in the mountains where no one can bother him there and begins working. And he does it. In the process Oscar sees new places way up in those mountains and he has an unexpected and thrilling adventure which teaches him an important life lesson. He builds his very own slide, and it is likely the longest otter slide in the world all right.
Oscar is ready to test his slide. But what he doesn’t know can cause him so much trouble; Oscar doesn't know he is in danger. His adversary, the fox, is watching him. Oscar leaps onto the slide and is followed closely by the fox. But what the fox doesn't know is that someone is watching him. Down the slide flies Oscar, and the fox, and a bobcat, and a moose who thinks it is a parade and a wolf who just wants lunch. And on they speed until suddenly a log whumps down on the slide.
My resident critics enjoy listening to the narrative found on the pages of Oscar Otter. I have enjoyed reading the book to classes of little people from the time it first appeared as part of the I Can Read books offered for children’s classroom subscription book buying. Written in 1966 Oscar Otter has been a classroom staple for generations of little readers.
The story line revolves around a child otter who makes some poor choices regarding his love of sliding down into the pond. Oscar’s decision to ignore his Dad’s counsel and undertake a foray into the mountains to make a really big slide might have ended in total disaster. However Oscar keeps his wits about him and gets some help from a resourceful beaver.
Illustrations are vintage Arnold Lobel, who was a renowned author/illustrator in his own right. Lobel’s critter illustrations are always excellent, full of vitality and highly motivating for children.
I like the format of the book very much. Images are profuse, follow the narrative, do not overwhelm it with too much activity or too much brilliant color. My resident critics pronounce the illustrations as "just right". My first graders listened with absorbed attention as I read the tale the first time. They worried that Oscar was going to become lunch. And they laughed to realize that for the most part; each one in turn is being stalked by something behind him.
I like the opportunity for discussion presented in the book. There are valuable lessons to be gleaned from the story; when parents, teachers or other adults counsel children regarding danger there is a reason for the counsel. Be quick-witted when confronted with a challenge is an additional big lesson children gain from the narrative.
Follow up readings during the school year find the children as engrossed, however they are no longer worried that Oscar will be eaten, and join in the reading as children do by ‘saying’ the story along with the reader. Oscar Otter is often chosen for free time reading, and for taking into the hall to be read in a DEAR office for pleasure.
Nathaniel Benchley is a well respected name in children’s writing. Coming from a family of writers, author Benchley was born 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a noted American actor, critic, humorist and writer, Robert Benchley. His son, Peter Benchley, 1940, was a novelist as well. Nathaniel Benchley died in 1981. Children in my classes. have long been fascinated to realize that Nathaniel Benchley was the father of the man who wrote Jaws.
The State of California, Dept of Education, has placed Oscar Otter on their recommended 'level 1' readers list.
Thirty thumbs up from Osage County, Oklahoma first grade in Mrs. Ms class. Oscar Otter is a sure child pleaser for ages 3 - 8. Happy to recommend for the personal reading list of children, for home, school, classroom and public library shelves.
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