Book Review | Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
by Tomi Ungerer

Score: 3

illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

© 2010, Phaidon Press Limited.

Otto is a teddy bear that begins his life as a special birthday gift for David, a young German Jewish boy, becomes a trusted friend of the boy and his best friend, Oskar and a willing participant in their childhood pranks. When Hitler takes over Germany, David and his family are sent away, and Otto is entrusted to Oskar’s care. The war takes its toll on Oskar’s city and building. Otto finds himself with a new companion, travelling to America, experiencing many different adventures and ultimately landing in an antique store where miraculously he is rediscovered by Oskar and ultimately reunited with David.

While this book is formatted as a picture book and therefore looks as if it is meant for younger readers, it is by no means a book for young children. The writing is at a 5th grade level, the concepts even higher. For example:

“Whole streets were blown to pieces. Among the ruins and the fires lay innocent victims. Then one day a sudden explosion sent me flying in a cloud of smoke.”

The accompanying illustrations are dark, detailed and somewhat gory pictures of dead soldiers bleeding next to their machine guns, hands sticking out from the rubble of destroyed buildings and fires burning all around. Otto arrives in America to a hero’s welcome, but quickly lands in the hands of thugs and is thrown in the garbage. The bleakness of the illustrations continues even with the reunion of the friends.

This book brought to mind a similar story, Elisabeth by Claire A. Nivola, written in 2001. Although Elisabeth is about a doll that is separated from her young mistress and Otto is about a teddy bear, the issues of appropriateness for children are as true today as they were back then.

Otto is a very realistic Holocaust story, and while told from the viewpoint of a teddy bear, it leaves no detail unrevealed. Be very careful how, when and who you share the contents of this book with.

Grade Level: 6th-10th

Ages: 11-16

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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One Response to “Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear”

  1. stujallen says:

    This sounds like a really interesting book ,I love the cover very sad ,all the best stu

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