Otter enjoys playing outside with Teddy but doesn’t enjoy baths—at first.
While the controlled text is accessible to new readers as it follows Otter’s antics outside with its stuffed animal friend Teddy, characterization in this story is rather difficult to understand without prior familiarity with Garton’s picture books about Otter. Otter is depicted as an anthropomorphic animal, and Teddy is a toy. But then lines between fantasy and reality become blurred when the (never fully seen) human character, referred to as “Otter Keeper,” insists that muddy Otter and Teddy bathe. Bubbles, bath toys, and splashing end up making the dreaded bath fun after all. It’s unclear whether Otter Keeper is an adult or a child, but it is clear that Otter Keeper is worn out when Otter asks for another bath and is refused. Rebuffed, a cleaned-up Otter brings Teddy back outside to play, and an intentional splash in a mud puddle results in the coveted second bath. The illustrations are appealing, but they are largely symmetrical with the text. This may support a new reader’s decoding efforts, but they do little to add visual interest to the staid story or to clarify its characterization.
Not a keeper of an early reader. (Early reader. 5-7)