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Odder always yearns to dive deeper and swim further. She is an otter whose curiosity and playfulness are captured in Odder, a book of free verse poetry by Katherine Applegate. The poems build on each other, telling a story that captivated me. Here is one excerpt from the book that describes Odder’s exuberance:

Nobody has
her moves.
She loves to roughhouse,
can be pushy and eager,
too unruly for some,
but watching her
work the water
is a joy.

 

This adventurous character makes Odder likable, but it also has a downside: when Odder ventures too far into the waters of Monterey Bay, she encounters a shark. For a portion of the book, Odder is healing at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While this story is fiction, it was inspired by the stories of real life sea otters who have been rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Applegate uses poetry to personify Odder and emphasize an array of emotions that can be strong, subtle, or anywhere in between. Odder’s character is portrayed in a way that caused me to care about and identify with her. She is put in circumstances where she feels the way a human might feel. Sometimes, she even reacts the way a human might react. By the end of the book, I realized that I’d actually ended up exploring human nature, but through otters!

Throughout Odder, the medium of poetry is used to capture vivid imagistic details. For example, in this excerpt Applegate highlights Odder’s forepaws and flippers by describing them as:

held aloft,
soaking up sun
like tiny solar panels.

Then, the poem goes on to describe what Odder is holding:

Tucked in a pocket of skin
under her arm
is a favorite rock,
just right for opening
mussels and clams.

 

With the help of these descriptions, I felt like I was with Odder everywhere she went.

This book also includes facts, which are incorporated into some of the poems. This makes the facts more memorable and enjoyable. For example, a whole poem is dedicated to explaining that sea otters are a keystone species, which means they are essential for the survival of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, sea otters are also endangered. Applegate spreads awareness about the importance of otters in a way that is inspiring, rather than depressing.

Overall, this book gives the reader plenty of opportunities to explore human nature, but through a different species: otters. It joyfully celebrates them, and deepens the reader’s appreciation for these fascinating creatures.

 

Odder by Katherine Applegate. Feiwel & Friends, 2022. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

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