Get a free SCARS short story. Sign up for News & Goodies from YA Author Cheryl Rainfield
Love my books? Join my Street Team! You'll have my deep gratitude, hear book news first, get swag, and enter to win private contests
Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Dog Eared: Starring Otis
Dog Eared: Starring Otis
written and illustrated by Amanda Harvey
I was walking home the other day
when a large dog pushed into me and growled, "Out of my way, Big Ears!"
Big Ears? I thought. Surely not.
But doubt crept into my mind.
--Dog Eared: Starring Otis by Amanda Harvey, p. 1-3.
Most of us can relate to feeling insecure or to being put down at some point in our lives. Otis, a dog and the narrator of this story, experiences both—he lets a mean-spirited comment from another dog affect him, until Lucy, his human girl, tenderly says exactly the right thing. The next time Otis is faced with the bullying dog, he lets the comment slide right off him, remaining confident in himself. This is a feel-good, encouraging book about believing in yourself, and allowing the positives from the people you love help to build up your resistance to negatives.
Harvey's (Dog Days: Starring Otis) text is written in first person, which allows the reader to more fully and easily identify with the narrator. Brief or partial sentences on each page help push the story forward quickly. Harvey allows the reader—for the most part—to discover what Otis feels on their own, through Otis' actions and responses, and the story is stronger for it.
Harvey keeps Otis' problem from getting too painful by injecting some humor into both the text and the illustrations ("Should Otis gel his ears up? Or curl them under?"), and well as some tenderness near the end, and Otis' belief in himself.
A similar scene occurs at both the opening and closing of the book, where a mean-spirited dog says something nasty to Otis, and this brings a nice sense of repetition and having come full circle. Even more satisfying is that, by the closing, Otis is strong enough in himself that he can ignore the bully's comment and know that he is just fine the way he is.
Otis' inner thoughts and dialogue ring true, and feel believable. Readers who've been through similar experiences may laugh or smile wryly at Otis' eating peppermint creams when he doesn't really want them, and staring at his reflection to see whether the comment was true or not.
It seems a little too coincidental that Lucy said exactly the right thing, specifically praising Otis' ears, when she didn't seem to be aware that Otis was worried about his ears. Still, it's a lovely, reassuring moment in the book.
Harvey's faded watercolor-and-pencil illustrations use a cartoon style and light colors that match the mood of the text. Harvey depicts Otis as endearing and winsome, happy as well as insecure (until he is reassured by his human girl). Otis' body language is strong, showing not only his emotion but also his insecurities. Readers also see how Otis sees himself through his reflection and nightmares.
The illustrations have free-flowing lines, especially the characters, which helps bring some life into the illustrations. Most of the illustrations are large rectangles on a single page with narrow light blue borders and some white space around them, with the occasional full spread. Since the text moves so quickly, this seems to work, though slightly more variation in the presentation might be more visually pleasing.
Harvey adds great humor and a touch of silliness in the way the Otis tries to change his ears, curling and tying them into a bow; this brings a necessary lightness and helps to keep the story entertaining while also giving positive messages (such as that with belief in yourself and a little love, you can let negative comments slide off you and feel strong in yourself). The illustrations feel light-hearted, through both the comedic body language and through the light colors used. Even in Otis' darkest moment, the colors are just a little darker than in the rest of the book, the blue of the night becoming slightly deeper and richer, and Otis' nightmares are visually silly and funny.
I would have liked the colors to be brighter and not so faded, and for Otis to visually stand out a little more as the main character. Also, although the girl is kind and caring in the text, her face does not look all that kind (to me). Still, the illustrations are happy.
Though the story and the solution may be a bit simple for some readers, especially those who are experiencing ongoing bullying, emotional abuse, or criticism, the book is uplifting and encouraging. This is a light-hearted look at bullying and self-confidence. It encourages self-esteem and belief in yourself, and trusting the people who love you. Recommended.
Want more books?
Go back to Being Yourself: Accepting & Believing In You to find great Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach.
Or, go to Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach to see all of the books.