Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ottoline Goes to School

I had such a fabulous time reading the first Ottoline book, Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, to my girls last year, so when this one arrived at my library, I was very excited to take it home. The girls were so excited to see it that they ran off to read it without me, so I was left, sadly, to read it to myself. I have a feeling that is going to be happening more and more often as they get older, which is a bittersweet feeling. I'm so glad that they are book lovers, but I do enjoy sharing books with them, and I'll be sad when they no longer wish to be read to. At any rate, this second book in the Ottoline series was just as whimsical and creative as the first one, and it cheered me right up.

Ottoline lives alone with her best friend, the strange but very cute little bog man, Mr. Monroe (her parents are collectors and travel around the world most of the time). She makes a friend at the park one day. Cecily and Ottoline spend a lot of time together, as Cecily's parents are very busy, and Cecily is on her own much of the time. Ottoline is sad when Cecily tells her that her holidays are over, and it is time for her to return to her boarding school, The Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted.

Ottoline immediately writes to her parents, asking if she can go to school there, too, and soon she and Mr. Monroe are packing up their things and heading off to a most unusual school. Ottoline is so wrapped up in her new friends and studies that she neglects Mr. Monroe, who is sent to the stables to sleep with the student's "other pets." All the students at the school possess different "gifts," including spinning plates on very tall poles, aerial flower arranging and curtain origami. Ottoline shows no skill at all in any of these areas, and she becomes worried that she'll never find her different gift. But when it appears that the school is haunted, Ottoline forgets about her troubles and focuses instead on unraveling a most intriguing series of clues.

The illustrations are delightful, the perfect accompaniment to the humorous yet touching story of Ottoline, Cecily, and the unusual students of The Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted. Ottoline is in fine sleuthing form, and her different gifts are apparent to the reader long before they are to Ottoline herself, which makes things all just a little more fun.

Books in the Ottoline series:
2. Ottoline Goes to School
3. Ottoline at Sea (forthcoming)

Ottoline Goes to School (#2 in the Ottoline series) by Chris Riddell (Harper, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Eva's Book Addiction: "Light on text and and liberally sprinkled with Riddell's intricate and piquant drawings, this airy, funny book will work well with readers ready for their first chapter books and as a one-on-one read-aloud. And here's a secret - my 15-year-old daughter is simply mad about the Ottoline books, so I know this one spans a great many grade levels."
Kinnie's Korner: " Is it or is it not haunted? I really like this book because He put a lot of animals in it.So if you like unusual books then you will love this book."
Tripping Toward Lucidity: "A potentially haunted boarding school! The results are hilarious and adorable. So adorable, in fact, that if this book had cheeks, I would pinch 'em."


  1. I love the little ghosty hiding behind the photo on the cover. It made me giggle.

  2. Cat - there are surprises all over the place inside the book, too, that are sure to make you laugh. One thing I loved was at the end it asks if you've spotted the other ghosts throughout the book, I forget how many, and you can hunt through and try to find them all!

  3. I love these illustrations! I haven't heard of this before but it sounds really cute!

  4. Ladytink - I adore these books - the illustrations are just wonderful, and I love the way the author tells you the reader things but doesn't interpret them for the reader - it makes reading together a lot of fun.


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