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Based on true events and the noteworthy rescue and rehabilitation work of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, this novel written in free verse for middle grade readers (ages 8-12) explores the fragile existence of southern sea otters—the smallest marine mammals in North America—and the ongoing efforts to ensure their survival.   

With compassion, wit, and a deft hand at weaving fascinating facts about sea otters throughout her narrative, author Katherine Applegate introduces readers to a fictional otter pup: “Her mother called her ‘Odder’ / from the moment / she was born. / Something about the way / the little pup never settled, / something about the way / her eyes were always / full of questions.”   

Soon after birth, Odder’s life is forever changed when she is separated from her mother during a storm. She is rescued by aquarists who do all they can to teach her how to be an otter so she can be reintroduced into the ocean and survive. Odder is successfully rehabilitated and lives for three years in her native waters. However, she fails to heed her mother’s advice, now only a vague echo in her mind: “Stay away from sharks. / Stay away from humans. / Stay away from all / that you don’t understand.” When calamity strikes for a second time, Odder finds herself in need of rescue once again, and hesitantly takes on a role she never thought herself capable of, yet one that gives her purpose and an opportunity to be part of something bigger than herself. 

Illustrator Charles Santoso’s endearing, detailed pictures of otters—“the champions of cute”—are sure to bring smiles to children’s faces and Katherine Applegate’s wise and humorous comments will make for some laugh-out-loud moments. 

(Feiwel & Friends)


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