Otto the orange cat is back, and this time it’s almost his birthday. Otto is so eager to open presents and eat cake and ice cream that his parents have to remind him about the more important aspects of tomorrow’s celebration: having family and friends to share in his birthday joy. Sent to his room to think about it, Otto wakes in the middle of the night to realize his birthday has been stolen. This leads him to Professor Barkword’s lab, where Otto is sent to the Backwards World with the palindrome-loving robot Toot. In Backwards World, people wear their underwear on the outside of their pants, leave trash on the street, and take birthday presents instead of give them. When Otto and Toot encounter two sea serpents, they are commanded to ask two questions the dragons don’t know the answer to. Stumping the dragons leads Otto to the realization that he has been looking at his birthday all wrong and will miss his family and friends if he has to celebrate his birthday all alone.
This comic early reader is filled with the humor and wit we’ve come to expect from Toon titles. Though Otto’s moral shift from greedy to enlightened birthday boy is somewhat sudden, it is a minor complaint in this funny and fast-paced adventure. The drawings are colorful and appealing, and the dynamic facial expressions provide plenty of clues to the characters’ emotions.
Like Otto’s Orange Day, this volume is listed as level 3 for “advanced beginners,” which means it includes short chapters and a somewhat complex story. With the added fun of the concept of palindromes thrown in, there’s a lot to take in for a new reader, but that’s one of the joys of this title: the first read is fun, but repeated readings will deepen understanding and allow kids to appreciate its cleverness even more thoroughly. The end pages provide tips for parents and teachers on how to read comics with kids, which could be helpful for those still-doubting parents who don’t see comics as appropriate material for new readers.
Otto’s Backwards Day
by Frank Cammuso, Jay Lynch
Publisher Age Rating: 5-8