Review: Otis Dooda: Strange But True by Ellen Potter


June 6, 2013 by Heidi

Otis Dooda by Ellen PotterTitle: Otis Dooda: Strange But True [Goodreads]
Author: Ellen Potter [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Illustrator: David Heatley
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Published: June 4th, 2013 by Feiwel and Friends
Format: Hardcover; 240 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via the author.


Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that’s his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He’s heard it all before. He’s been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That’s right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We’ll wait.

All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

It’s a fairly well established fact that I am a lover of middle grade and that most of the middle grade I read transcends age with ease, but every so often when presented with a book that is unequivocally for kids, I can’t say no.  Ellen Potter made my day by remembering how much I’d loved her previous book, The Humming Room (a fantabulous contemporary retelling of The Secret Garden which I highly recommend), and approached me with her newest book, Otis Dooda: Strange But True.  She admitted up front that it was a bit of a departure from her usual middle grade novels, but that it was so because she sought to challenge herself to write a book that her 8-year-old son and “his merry band of hellraisers” (as she called them) would love.  I was intrigued.  I don’t usually read books for children that young, but as someone who’s continually keeping an eye out for good “boy” books (I love that all these young boys in my life love reading their non-fiction, but I like to see them read fiction too!), of course I wanted to read it.

Okay, so strait up, Otis Dooda is a book for kids.  It’s not really a book for adults and kids to read together (although you totally could), but a book to be squirrled away and laughed at by kids in that way we all do when a book gets us and we know nobody else in the room would possibly understand.  Because Ellen Potter well and truly does get kids–it’s a book so utterly ridiculous and full of that crude weird humor that is really at its height around 8 years old.  It’s full of farting, and annoying siblings, and (attempted) elbow licking, legos, capers, and crazy neighbors.  It’s inspired me to start saying “Well, butter my buns!” when I do anything particularly like the country bumpkin that I occasionally am in NYC.

No, there isn’t a great deal of depth or emotion in this short book, but sometimes we all need to just kick back and have a little fun.  When Otis moves to NYC with his family in the summer, that’s precisely what he does!  He makes friends with his neighbors, walks a French Gerbil Hound (that may or may not really be a miniature pony), shoots out of a cannon into marshmallow fluff, is most definitely be cursed.  Okay…well the cursed part isn’t so much fun (for him), but I suppose it’s safe to say that things aren’t always what they seem.

Illustrated by David Heatley, I believe there isn’t a two-page spread throughout the entire book that lacks embellishment.  All of the illustrations capture the feeling of the book and its characters perfectly, and I really think they’ll make what could be an intimidating book for some reluctant readers fly by.

Otis Dooda: Strange But True isn’t one I’ll be insisting the adults in my life pick up, but I do very much recommend it for the trouble-making 7-9 year-old kids in your life.  It’s a book about an average kid having the sort of adventures any average kid out there could have.  It is more than a little bit strange, but the humor and feeling are certainly true.

Except for my name, I’m pretty “sort of.” I’m sort of skinny and sort of short.  I’m sort of good at soccer and sort of bad at math.  In other words, I’m sort of average.  I lived a sort of average life, too.  But then, this summer, my father started a new job, which meant we all had to move to New York City.  That’s when my life became sort of crazy.

Everything I’m about to tell you is true.

Strange but true.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  I still need to read Potter’s The Kneebone Boy!! And very much want to. Of course, I’ll also try to keep up with any new releases she comes up with in the meantime. An auto-read MG author for me.

Recommended for: This is a great pairing for Kim Baker’s Pickle!  It’s another fun one for this age group that will appeal to both boys and girls, that has extra goodies–for example Otis has his own Twitter account!  Here’s the website, and check out the trailer:

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I honestly read Otis Dooda when I was having a really crappy day.  Long story short, I was sick, I’d just gotten out of a 13 hour work day, and my car battery was dead.  I was so happy to have Otis to keep me company (and keep my spirits up) while we resuscitated my poor vehicle.  A happy result from always keeping a book in my bag!

I’ve also reviewed:
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter


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1 comment »

  1. […] into their hands that will totally get them, look no further than Otis Dooda: Strange but True.  I reviewed Otis Dooda last week, now I am so happy to say that Ellen Potter and David Heatley have stopped by […]

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