Ooko by Esme Shapiro

Ooko by Esme Shapiro
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ooko has everything a fox could want: a stick, a leaf and a rock. Well, almost everything . . . Ooko wants someone to play with too! The foxes in town always seem to be playing with their two-legged friends, the Debbies. Maybe if he tries to look like the other foxes, one of the Debbies will play with him too. But when Ooko finally finds his very own Debbie, things don’t turn out quite as he had expected!

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Everyone needs friends. This includes foxes, too.

Ooko’s relationships with the various humans he met on his quest to make a new friend was delightful. Not only did he assume they were all called Debbie, he also thought they all liked the exact same things. This misunderstanding early on lead to all sorts of adventures later on. I was entertained by his assumptions about people just as much as I was curious to see if he’d ever become true friends with anyone he met.

There was one part of the plot that I wish had been developed more thoroughly. It had to do with Ooko’s original urge to find a friend and how he decided that was something he wanted in his life. He spent so much time talking about this desire that I was surprised by how he reacted to it once he grew closer to possibly reaching his goal. I would have expected the exact opposite to happen, so it would have been nice for the narrator to go into more detail about this before the end.

The ending was perfect. Not only was I satisfied by what happened to Ooko in the final scene, I appreciated the fact that the author gave so few hints about what would ultimately happen to him before she revealed everything. This was an excellent decision for a character who so often refused to live by the rules that humans often assume should apply to everyone. It felt very fox-like in the best sense of the term.

Ooko made me smile. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a picture book that deals with a common childhood problem.

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