Fern and Otto by Stephanie Graegin

Fern and Otto – A Picture Book Story About Two Best Friends by Stephanie Graegin
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When best friends Fern, a bear, and Otto, a cat, go searching for an exciting story in the forest, they have different ideas about what that means. Fern thinks they should stop and watch a race between a tortoise and a hare, but Otto worries a tortoise is too slow to be exciting. Fern thinks the three brothers talking about how to build a house is incredibly interesting, but Otto isn’t convinced. Along the way, the two friends meet a little girl in red who is off to visit her grandmother (and a wolf headed the same way!); a cranky girl complaining that her porridge isn’t the right temperature; and many others. But it’s not until they run into a big scary witch that they both can agree that this is not the kind of excitement they had in mind. With irresistible illustrations and tons of charming details, this is a delightful fantasy adventure that proves the best adventures are the ones you share.

You never know what you’ll find in a magical forest!
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I was delighted by the many references to classic fairy and folk tales in this picture book. Most of them would be easy for kids to figure out, but there were one or two that were slightly more challenging in a good way. It was nice that the narrator trusted readers to make those connections on our own. There were certainly enough clues to do so. While I would be prepared to share the answers with preschoolers who might need a little help with the trickier ones, this is something I think they’d take great pride in figuring out on their own as much as possible.

There was a scene involving a witch that I thought was a tad too scary for this age group. As much as I enjoyed the references in that scene, it was something I’d tone down or maybe even skip over if I were reading this to the little ones in my life. With that being said, this was a minor blip in something I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit. Every child is unique and some of them may not be phased by it at all.

Fern and Otto’s friendship made me smile. They were always so kind to each other even when they disagreed about what they should do next or whether a particular experience in the forest would be a good thing to include in the storybook they were writing together. I thought they were a great example of what it should look like when friends disagree on something they both have strong feelings about. They both did a good job of communicating how they felt and working together to find solutions for their disagreements.

Fern and Otto – A Picture Book Story About Two Best Friends was a delightful adventure that should be read by fantasy fans of all ages.

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