Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: "Otto Grows Down"

Thanks to Sterling Publishing, I recently had the chance to look at Otto Grows Down, a new children's book by author Michael Sussman and illustrator Scott Magoon.

Otto Grows Down takes a familiar set-up--an almost six year old boy less than thrilled with the presence of his new baby sister--and puts a creative spin on it. When Otto uses a birthday wish to wish his sister had never been born, he is shocked to find time suddenly going backward. Soon sister Anna is gone, just as he wished ("And on Monday, Otto's parents returned Anna to the hospital."), but time keeps on running in the wrong direction. Otto must figure out a way to stop himself from reliving his life in reverse before he disappears, too.

My toddler was charmed by the illustrations from the moment the book came out of the box. After several reads over multiple days, he declared it a very good book. His favorite part is the page showing Otto on the toilet, with its sly suggestion of some less enjoyable aspects of doing everything backwards. (I know, you're all, "Ew!" Kids love that stuff--or at least my three-year old and the friends he showed it to did!)

Sussman takes the old lesson of being careful what you wish for and weaves it neatly into the story--no moral anvils here. Otto learns to appreciate what he has, baby sister and all ("'I'd rather grow up with Anna,' said Otto, 'than grow down without her.'"). It will be useful for families dealing with kids' feelings about new siblings, but doesn't feel like a niche "big brother/big sister" book. Sussman keeps the story moving along with funny observations about life in reverse, and Magoon's illustrations add an extra layer of humor. It has been a welcome addition to our home library and one I recommend.

(Ages 4-8--it was fine for my 3.5 year old. The family is Caucasian. Available in hardcover for $12 at Amazon or $11 at Powell's Books. is an affiliate.)


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