CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
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Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear Hardcover – October 20, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-A teddy bear recounts his creation in Germany before World War II, his arrival as a birthday present for a young Jewish boy, and his time with David and David's friend, Oskar. When authorities force David to wear a yellow star and transport him and others away, Otto stays behind with Oskar. An African-American G.I. finds the bear after a bomb blast, a bullet hits them both, and because the bear absorbs the brunt of the blast, he saves the soldier's life. Otto becomes the playmate of the soldier's daughter until he is mauled by street boys, lands in a garbage pail, and eventually in an antique shop. From there the story takes an even more surprising and satisfying twist as Otto is reunited with his childhood friends. Ungerer's large watercolors become dark and shadow-filled as the Jews are taken away, people hide in bomb shelters, and bombs explode in the city. In a particularly realistic spread, one soldier lies slumped over a tank in the distance while, in the foreground, readers see a prostrate soldier clutching his bleeding chest, another one trapped under rubble, and a bodiless outstretched arm. While the book touches on some difficult subjects, the story is told from the point of view of the bear, which makes discussion a bit easier for younger children. Otto appears scarred and battle-worn on the cover but is a survivor nonetheless, and his telling is matter-of-fact and unsentimental. A poignant and uplifting story.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* With the effortless touch of a true master, Ungerer takes the coziest symbol of childhood—the teddy bear—and transforms it into a battered but proud emblem of the perseverance of innocents. Receiving its first English publication (it was published in French in 1999), the book begins with Otto looking ragged on a shelf: “I knew I was old when I found myself on display in the window of an antique store.” Then it’s back to 1930s Germany and the agony of birth: a workshop sewer attaching Otto’s button eyes. Soon Otto is gifted to David, and the two spend many a happy day pulling pranks with David’s pal, Oskar. But that yellow star David wears—with pride, you can tell by the line of his back—foreshadows decades of turmoil: Otto passed off to Oskar when David is trucked away; Otto used by a solider to stem a bloody wound; Otto’s subsequent fame, abduction, and garbage-can salvation. It’s potent material. And the battlefield spread is scary—dead soldiers, an arm poking from the rubble. Ungerer plays it straight with his watercolors, rarely accentuating, but never pulling back, either. Even the ending, in which Otto’s original owner finds him, is subdued, with Otto finally taking his place at a typewriter, writing this story, and stating, with characteristic nonchalance, “Here it is.” Grades 1-3. --Daniel Kraus
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Top Customer Reviews
The horrors of war are shown effectively through the contrast between the understated way Otto tells his story, and the disturbing watercolor and pencil illustrations of battles, destroyed buildings destroyed, guns, fires, and graphic portrayals of dead soldiers. Ungerer wants the reader to see that friendship has survived terrible events in the past. Perhaps their reunion is an unlikely coincidence, but it makes a hopeful ending. He has also said that he wants children to come away scared after they read this, and they will. Hopefully, they will realize the insanity of war, so that the Holocaust can never happen again. This is the first English edition of Otto, which was published in French in 1999. In 2011, Ungerer turns 80. An exhibition of his contributions to children's literature in the United States will be displayed at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass. For grades 4 - 6.
I've read some reviews that think the story is too grim for kids. I disagree. I think it looks honestly at history and the human condition and shows the power of love and friendship. Highly recommended.