Jewish Values: Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

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36 p.
An illustrious author and illustrator of children's books (among others) tells the story of the Holocaust through the experiences of a teddy bear. Otto the teddy bear begins the story where he has been languishing unsold in an antique store window; we are then taken back to 1930s Germany. Otto was a birthday gift for a Jewish boy, David, who greatly enjoyed making mischief with Otto and his best friend, Oskar. When David, wearing a yellow star, was taken away with his family, he gave his beloved bear to Oskar. During a bombardment, Otto was tossed up into the air and became separated from Oskar. Then Otto’s body partially blocked a bullet aimed at an American G.I. who took him to New York after the war ended. After more mishaps, Oskar ended up in the antique shop. A now-elderly Oskar recognizes him in the window. David sees the newspaper headlines about their reunion and contacts Oskar. They relate their wartime experiences and family losses to each other, and then decide to live together with Otto. Otto comments that this makes life finally what it should be—“peacefully normal.” As the book ends, he is typing his life story. The horrors of war are made effective through the contrast between the understated way Otto tells his story, and the disturbing watercolor and pencil illustrations of battles, destroyed buildings destroyed, guns, fires, and graphic portrayals of dead soldiers. Although its format looks like a simple picture book, it is actually an illustrated Holocaust story that can be used to introduce the subject of the Holocaust to grades four and up.
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Sydney Taylor Winner: