Welcome, Otis!, written and illustrated by Laurie Ingersoll, is a quirky picture book that delivers an important lesson about loving someone with special needs even when it is difficult.
Readers are introduced to Otis when a cat named Mouse and a mouse named Moose startle him while on a walk. Mouse understands that they must have alarmed the “bundle of feathers” with a “bright colored tail” and has the foresight to stay calm and be gentle with the nervous Otis. Once Otis relaxes he shares his story with them. It turns out Otis fell from a tree before learning to fly and is now all alone in the world. Mouse and Moose decide they will let Otis live with them so they can help him.
The cat, mouse, and bird make a sweet, albeit unconventional, family.
Mouse and Moose soon understand Otis’s behaviors. Ingersoll writes: “They found that loud noises or change of routine/ Would set Otis off and create quite a scene.” After learning to live with and to love Otis, the little family settles into a routine.
The book takes on a serious theme with humor and grace. Even more, Ingersoll tells her story in rhythmic verse that is a pleasure to read aloud and listen to!
This will be a great book for home and school libraries. It can help children without special needs understand and empathize with those who can relate to Otis.
Although I enjoyed the whimsical illustrations, at times the art seemed a bit inconsistent. Additionally, some of the word choices were unfortunate, for instance the use of the word “disrupted,” which has a negative connotation, is used to describe Moose and Mouse’s post-Otis life. These are minor things unlikely to be noticed by young children.