Sometimes you pick up a picture book expecting to find a sweet, fluffy little story, only to discover that, in addition to being sweet and fluffy, the story in fact resonates with you on an entirely unexpected level.
Otter Goes to School follows the adorable, hapless character Otter as she decides to start a school for her stuffed toy friends. There are several books in the Otter series, both picture books and early readers, and they are all, dare I say it, adorable. And trust me, that’s not a bad thing. I challenge you to read this picture book and not want to pick up that squishy, fuzzy little otter and give her a great big snuggle. This is definitely a roll-polly, cuddly protagonist that will readily appeal to young readers.
In Otter Goes to School, Otter begins to doubt her abilities as a teacher when one of her toy students, Teddy, declares the he doesn’t like school, and that he’s worried that all the other students are better than him at everything. Poor Otter doesn’t know how to help Teddy discover his hidden talents, and playing school suddenly isn’t very fun anymore.
Good old Otter Keeper, who sort of plays the role of Dave in Alvin and the Chipmunks here, reassures Otter than everyone is good at something, and that sometimes it just takes a bit of time to uncover what that something is. It’s a familiar story, reminiscent of Excellent Ed, but one that bears repeating. In a way, Otter Goes to School is written as much for teachers and caregivers as it is for young children. When our students or our children struggle in school and lose faith in themselves, our own belief in our abilities as carers and educators can take a major hit, too. There are times when we just do not know how best to handle a situation, connect with a student, or make a lesson stick. Educators are, by and large, helpers, and not being able to help can be a shattering experience.
It never hurts for us grownups. to have a gentle reminder that sometimes connecting with children can take time, more than a little effort, and sometimes a change in perspective. The bumps in the learning road are natural, and aren’t indicators of our abilities as educators or caregivers. Children all learn in their own wonderful, unique ways, and there’s absolutely no shame in admitting when you need a second opinion or a word of advice from a colleague!
And honestly – if you need a pick-me-up, just look at this cuddly otter! She’s just so cuddly!!