Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dress Warmly! Otto Goes North by Ulrika Kestere

There's a blueberry blue house with a grass roof by the sea, way, way up north. Beside the blue house is a little red sauna hut, which can be very handy in the far north. And that's where a little lynx named Lisa and a little bear named Nils live together.

One day Lisa was on the roof, mowing the grass. Nils was setting out afternoon tea in in the garden. They wanted everything to be nice for their friend Otto, a lemur, who was coming to visit.

His bike was red with a large shiny bell. Otto would ring it like mad, enough to be annoying

"Pling, Pling, Pling! Here I am!" he called.

As the three enjoy their tea, Otto tells his old friends of his plan.
"This evening I'll see the Northern Lights at last," said Otto.
I'll paint them so I can hang the picture on my wall at home!"

But there's a problem with the plan. Northern Lights only appear at night, and after nightfall, it grows quite too cold for Otto to work. His teeth chatter and he shivers all over.
He shook so hard he could not hold his brush!

Lisa and Nils rush Otto into their sauna, where he warms right up, but seems to be catching a cold. What to do?

But Otto's hosts have an idea. They decide to make Otto a really warm sweater--if they can figure out how to do that! Lisa remembers a book she has about how to spin wool into yarn and knit a woolen sweater. But first they need some wool--and there are no sheep on their island.

But wait! Wool is just sheep fur, and being a lynx and a bear, Lisa and Nils have thick fur, too. Following the book's directions, they brush and card and spin their fur on their neighbor Lena's spinning wheel into a quantity of yarn, which they dye blueberry blue, onion-skin yellow, and red cabbage red. By the time they are done with the knitting, Otto has recovered from his cold and wearing his snug sweater, he is busy doing two paintings, one for himself, and one for Lisa and Nils' house.

Ulrika Kestere's Otto Goes North (Gecko Press, 2019) is a lovely and quaint story set in a chilly Scandinavian scene in a charming faux naif style of illustrations very appealing to young readers, one which also offers an introduction to spinning and knitting. Says School Library Journal, "A perfect story to pair with a lesson on fiber art or dyeing."  For more, share this one with Caldecott artist Tomie de Paola's delightful and detailed account of the process of making a woolen cloak, Charlie Needs a Cloak.

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