Protagonist Oliver, a biracial boy, decides he is an otter.
During a trip to the aquarium, young Oliver delights in the antics of the playful otters and decides to become one, too. He tries in many ways to be otter-ish, though his parents take a neutral stand. When Oliver slaps a slice of bologna on his chest, Mom (who’s black) doesn’t understand but listens to him explain that this is how real otters eat. When Dad (who’s white) takes him food shopping, Oliver offers him string, pretending it’s kelp, so Dad can tie him the way otter moms care for their young when they must hunt. Dad gently replies that he is not an otter’s mother. Oliver’s imagination continues until one antic backfires and he is glad to be a boy again, except in one endearing way. Connor’s tender story captures a young child’s vivid imagination, but it is also a teacher’s dream, incorporating facts about otters in “snapshots” on each page, augmented by detailed science facts and activities in the backmatter, with permission to print. Jones’ delightful, expressive, and smooth-edged digital illustrations are an apt match with the text and add humor while also sliding in still more otter facts. A Spanish-language edition, Nico: Nutria por un día, is also available.
Deftly capitalizing on children’s predilection for imaginative play, this book neatly packs a solid informational punch. (Picture book. 4-8)