CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 18 . . . . January 13, 2012
Big City Otto is award-winning author/illustrator Bill Slavin's first graphic novel. It is also the first title in the "Elephants Never Forget" graphic novel series from Kids Can Press. The premise of the series is that the elephant, Otto, is missing his chimpanzee friend, Georgie, who has been kidnapped from the jungle and, apparently, taken to America. Together with the help of his parrot friend, Crackers, Otto decides to set out for America in order to rescue his missing friend. It seems likely that each title in the series will take Otto and Crackers into different parts of America in search of Georgie. In this first title, the search finds Otto in a big urban setting, while the second title seems destined to take Otto to bayou country.
The illustrations were rendered in pen and ink line and coloured in Photoshop. Unlike most of Kids Can Press' graphic novels to date, Big City Otto is presented in full colour, and this is sure to prove an attractive feature for many young readers. The bright colours are eye-catching and appealing. In the early pages, the various greens reflect the lush African jungle surrounds but, thereafter, there is a smorgasbord of colour, representing the many and varied moods of a big city concrete jungle. Whereas the early panels are also spacious and uncluttered, this also changes once the story moves to the city. The panels are then crowded with details and activity. It is a skilful contrast between the peacefulness of Otto's home surrounds and the foreign environment into which his search propels him.
Big City Otto is 79 pages in length. Most pages consist of four or five panels. The panels often contain humour, as does the clever word play of the text. There is almost no third-person narration. Rather, the text is limited almost entirely to voice balloon utterances. This approach moves the book forward at a rapid pace.
Young readers will be drawn to the series by the colourful artwork. Otto the faithful, caring, brave elephant (who happens to be allergic to peanuts) will entertain many and have them looking forward to a continuation of the series.
Gregory Bryan is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, where he specializes in literature for children.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.