Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell

Cover of "Ottoline Goes to School"
Cover of Ottoline Goes to School

For those of you keeping score at home, I have been exploring what you might call the graphic novel side of children’s and young adult literature.  Works that are more than picture books; chapter books with a heavy visual aspect to them.

The latest book I stumbled upon at the library, Ottoline Goes to School, is actually the second book in a series but I didn’t know that at the time.  Regardless, it is a witty, silly, and visually stimulating story.

Here is School Journal’s plot summary:

In this second story about Ottoline, who lives with her faithful, hairy best friend, Mr. Monroe, readers are visually thrust into her Big City life, as she befriends Cecily, who is quite a storyteller, and decides to accompany her to the Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted. There the students, each with an outlandish and noteworthy pet, seek out their talents in origami curtain-making, plate-spinning, tea-sipping, and other different arts. Ottoline flounders, unable to find her special talent, but is drawn to the mystery of the curse of the Horse of Hammersteins. In the end, she proves to be a fine sleuth.

I am most familiar with Riddell from his collaboration with Paul Stewart in The Edge Chronicles.  And the illustrations here will stand out to anyone familiar with that series.  But this series is much more playful and more of a graphic novel than a straightforward illustrated story.

I read this story to my daughter in one sitting and she really enjoyed it.  I did as well. The illustrations are fun and full of surprises and the humor is dry and witty.  The text illustration combination pack a lot into this slim volume.

As School Journal also noted:

This is an outstanding example of a picture book-cum-graphic novel, in which Riddell dazzles readers with visual detail and comical oddities and language that is rich, zany, and imaginative. It will satisfy visually needy and visually discerning readers.

To use a cliche, this includes readers young and old.

So if you are looking for something different to read at bed time, or to have your young reader tackle themselves, this fun series is a good choice.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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