Otter is just looking for dinner when he finds love—with a fish. Focusing on her beautiful eyes, Otter no longer sees Myrtle as a food source. Myrtle feels a tug in her own heart and returns his affection as they play hide-and-seek and watch the stars. The story should end there, but the other pond animals find Otter, who’s always been a little odd, even odder with his new love interest. Some even call it unnatural.

Otter comes to his senses (according to the neighboring naysayers, that is) and resigns himself to living alone. Chris Raschka’s deceptively simple, childlike artwork, rendered in watercolor washes and thick colored pencil, evokes both Otter’s budding romance and crushing loss. After swimming by Beaver’s dam one day, Otter’s spirit is renewed, as Beaver helps Otter realize that love can take many paths, “that there is the way of the otter and there is the way of the heart.” Choosing the latter, Otter and Myrtle resume their lives—and love—together.

James Howe expertly crafts this modern fable to be read on many levels. Although adults may read more into the muddied relationship, even young children will recognize the strength of staying true to oneself. Otter’s reflective tale gives hope and validity to love everywhere.

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