Saturday, September 22, 2007

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners

Do Unto Otters was written and illustrated by award-winning children's author Laurie Keller. Using her signature style, this book is a cute take on The Golden Rule. While the book vividly reinforces a Christian principle (as found in Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31), it does not mention God or Scripture anywhere in the text.

When Mr. Rabbit gets new neighbors -- otter neighbors -- his friend, Mr. Owl, teaches him "an old saying: 'Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you.'" Rabbit thinks long and hard about what that means and how he would like the Otters to treat him. He wants them to be friendly, polite, honest, considerate and kind. They should also know how to cooperate, share and play fair. Good friends and neighbors don't tease and they always apologize and forgive when necessary. Mr. Rabbit agrees that it's easy to be friends when you treat "otters" the way you want them to treat you.

The author gives great explanations of what each of these traits mean. Being polite means knowing when to say "please", "thank you" and "excuse me". (One otter shares with readers how to say these three phrases in five languages: Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Pig Latin.) Being considerate means a lot of things including "being on time, respecting the elderly and showing patience." Playing fair means to "be a good sport, play by the rules, take turns and include everyone."

What I Like: I love how specific the author is. She gives tons of examples making it easy for kids to apply this principle in their lives. And it's funny. There is so much to look at on each page: sidebars, characters and colors. Some books read so quickly you have little time to focus on specific elements with your children. Not with this book. It's interactive. It encourages discussion between parent and child.

What I Dislike: Personally, I don't like the illustrations. The characters remind me of Ren & Stimpy. They're just kind of weird, but my kids like them.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 4-8, but I think some older kids may enjoy it, too.

Publisher Info: Henry Holt & Co., 2007; ISBN: 0805079963; Hardback; $16.95

Buy it Now at Amazon for $11.53!

Additional Info: There are two things some parents might find offensive. First, on the page about "when to say 'Excuse me.'", two characters pass gas. Both do say "Excuse me." Second, when Mr. Rabbit and an Otter share books, one of the titles is "Harry Otter." The cover illustration is a clear reference to Harry Potter. Considering the target age group, I think these minor details detract very little from the overall value of the book.

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