________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 15 . . . . March 28, 2003


Otters. (Kids Can Press Wildlife Series).

Adrienne Mason. Illustrated by Nancy Gray Ogle.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2003.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-407-X (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-406-1 (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Otters-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***1/2 /4


An otter must have clean fur to survive. Air trapped in clean, fluffy underfur helps keep an otter warm in cold water. The air bubbles form a layer that keeps water away from the otter's skin. Dirty, matted fur cannot trap the air bubbles.

An otter uses its sharp claws to comb and fluff its fur. This is called grooming. Grooming helps get dirt out of the fur. It also traps the air bubbles in the underfur.

An otter can also blow air into its fur. Mother otters sometimes blow air into the fur of their babies.

A new title in the “Kids Can Press Wildlife Series,” biologist/author Adrienne Mason's 32 page book, Otters, covers all the basic facts young readers need to get acquainted with the two North American species of otter, the sea otter and the river otter. The “Table of Contents” lists subtopics in straightforward language: How Otters Move, Otter Food, etc. While different in their required habitat and home, the two otter species share similarities in appearance, habits, and care of their young. The book also compares the two species as to food, methods of defence, and interactions with people. A list of 11 other otter species from various parts of the world is included, plus a page of tips to help identify North American otters by sight or signs. A brief glossary, and index complete the book.

     Written in short, simple sentences, the text is easily accessible to primary readers making this information book a good, early research tool. Aspects of the otters' lives are explained on double-page spreads, making the comparison simple to see. A brief introduction to each subtopic is extended by short chunks of text that serve as illustration captions. “Otter Facts” in kid-friendly language are included in inserts adding appeal for the recreational reader as well: "Sea otter fur is so thick that there can be up to one million hairs in a piece of fur the size of a postage stamp." The type is large and well-spaced.

     Detailed illustrations include large closeups, with smaller selections placed as inserts. Most of the functional, color paintings show action and place the animals in habitat context. Focus alternates between the two species of otter, with each given some large and some smaller illustration treatment. One picture showing an otter reposing on a pillow while being hand-cleaned of oil seems less authentic while the accompanying text offers no explanation as to the origin of “oil spills” or for the somewhat vague statement, "Aquariums also help otters get healthy again." These are minor points, however. Overall, the information is accurate and attractively presented.

Highly Recommended.

BC’s Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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