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Review: Elephants Never Forget, Vol. 1: Big City Otto

Crackers, a parrot, just wants to help his friend Otto the elephant find out what happened to Otto’s chimpanzee pal Georgie. But Crackers’ suggestions for how to find Georgie result in a flight from the jungle all the way to New York City and then a mad dash through the city looking for Georgie and the Man with the Wooden Nose who might have taken him. Before they know it, Crackers and Otto are caught up in a crime-spree, led by the wily Cajun alligators who live in the sewers. Now its up to Crackers to make sure that Otto doesn’t forget who his real friends are.

Elephants Never Forget, Vol. 1: Big City Otto
Written by Bill Slavin with Esperanca Melo; Illustrated by Bill Slavin
Ages 9-12; Grades 4-6
Kids Can Press, 20111, ISBN 978-1-5543-476-0
80 pages, $16.99

Slavin has been an illustrator of children’s books for years, and his skill shows in this his self-professed “magnum opus.” The pages of Big City Otto are filled with detail, giving the readers’ eyes plenty to linger over. Though his images are smaller and each panel is packed, there is enough white space between the panels and on the border of the page to keep the art from being overwhelming. A muted color palette and the use of thin outlines gives the art a bit of maturity and contrasts nicely with the cartoonish characters, resulting in a graphic novel that is fun for kids but doesn’t look too young.

The story is non-stop silly action, propelling the reader through rapidly, making this a good choice for more reluctant readers who want a title with strong art but an easy-to-follow plot. The characters are unique and appealing, especially clueless, bumbling Otto. One element that might trip up weaker readers is the alligators’ Cajun accent, but if they don’t mind it in this volume, then they’ll be well prepared for more of it in volume two. Kids Can Press’ binding is a sturdy, affordable hardcover, good for many circulations, which is good because this is a title likely to fly off the shelves.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Kids Can Press.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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