Review: Otter Moon by Tudor Humphries
by Tudor Humphries
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Boxer Books (September 1, 2009)
Tudor Humphries illustrations swiftly draw the reader into the natural world of Otter. His watercolor pallet is masterfully used to take us from the pink hues of dusk, far into the inky blue nighttime and velvety depths of the river and finally back again to the warmth of sunrise.
On the opening page Otter is perched in his secret place, a tree limb above the water, watching the full moon rise into the dusk sky. Day has come to its end and Kingfisher hurries home to bed. However, for nocturnal Otter his work has just begun. He has been tasked to catch a fish for the King Otter:
“Catch me a fish and it had better be on a silver dish. I want my dinner by first light!”
Humphries has drawn the Otter King lurching out of the river, dragon-like with tumultuous clouds looming in the background. Young Otter quivers at this fearsome sight. Descriptively named Flibbertigibbet, Otter is a playful young creature, distracted by the newts and froglets, and overwhelmed by the King’s demands.
Yet, Flibberty is in luck. Heron comes to his aid, advising him to use his eyes, use his wits and head downstream. Guided by his ally, Flibberty swims on through the night. Throughout the long journey, Heron is there to remind him to keep his mind on the goal, assuring him, “Find the dish and then you will find the fish!”
Humphries’ underwater illustrations show both the aqueous movement of the otter below and the light of the full moon and soaring heron above. The pair is not immediately successful. Their goal is as allusive and slippery as the watery world. The night is a long one of perseverance and teamwork. Heron watches over Otter and shares his eel supper to fortify the young hunter on his journey. Assonance and word play make the story flow as the reader follows the animals down the splish-splashy river chasing the glimmer and shimmering of silver.
The story also takes young readers through a nice range of emotions from Flibberty’s sense of helplessness to optimism, as well as self-pity and fear. First light arrives and still no dish, no fish! And yet, it is when Flibberty courageously climbs out of the river at daybreak to face the Otter king empty-handed, that our young hero triumphs. The story teaches of the magic that transpires when one has faith, perseverance and true friendship.
Otter Moon is the timeless story of youth being tasked with a challenge and a wise ally aiding him. The natural world is set in context with our world as we see bridges crossing the river in the distance on several pages. Otter Moon has all the elements of a perfect bedtime story—transition from day to night, a loveable animal hero and his guardian angel Heron on a magical journey and of course a victorious ending.
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