Otto (a reprint originally published in 1999) is a teddy bear made in Germany circa 1930’s. David, a Jewish boy receives Otto as a birthday gift. When soldiers in black leather coats come to take David and his family away, David gives Otto to his best friend Oskar. Oskar loses Otto when his street is bombed. An American soldier picks Otto out of the rubble moments before he is wounded. Brought to the States by the American soldier as a gift for his daughter, Otto is grabbed by ruffians and thrown into the trash from where he is picked out by an old woman wearing a baggy sweater fastened by a string. The woman sells Otto to an antique shop. Oskar purchases Otto and through a newspaper story the three friends, Otto, Oskar, and David are reunited. Otto is a well-written, deeply affecting and poignant book. The realistic, graphic water color illustrations of wounded and dead soldiers will frighten young children, so the book is most appropriate for ages 10 and up or the age at which children begin to learn about the horrors of World War II. A thought-provoking illustrated book dealing with war and the Holocaust that spares little in the depiction of those terrible times.
Ilka Gordon has a Masters in Education from Boston University and an M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. She is a librarian at Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland.