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Otter and Odder-A Love Story: Book MAMA’s Review for Kids

By: James Howe and Chris Raschka

We had a very girly couple of days last weekend.  Daddy was off hunting and so we spent our days trying to tire out our puppy and doing each other’s nails…baking peanut butter muffins and red velvet cupcakes and flat ironing each other’s hair..but most of our time, in the evening at least, was spent doing the one thing we can’t do when Dad’s home–watch chick flicks.

In short order we watched: Pitch Perfect, 27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Sweet Home Alabama, and Mean Girls.  Pitch Perfect is hilarious.  Mean Girls is brilliant.  The other 3 are and were perfect girl weekend movies and have some really transparently glaring themes that harken us right back to Cinderella and all the bullshit that we thought we’d left behind when we burnt our bras with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.  Well, I didn’t burn my bra.  I was, like, 4, but we are supposed to be reaping the benefits of the feminist movement, so why is  that still the happy ending?  Why do the successful single gals in the movies still drown themselves in ice cream while they pine  away for Prince Charming (Ed Burns, be still my heart), but still…why???

I know this is a tired subject and trust me I am not going to explore and discuss how the Feminist Movement actually backfired and bit us in the collective ass–like a door that you had to open yourself  might hit you on the way out.  But here’s my new post girlie weekend take…none of us is safe from this…it must be biology because my uber-new-millenium daughter who is 2 generations beyond all that  ”I’m responsible for my own orgasm” nonsense…she got sucked in to the wedding thing!  Like crazy sucked in.  As a matter of fact, she downloaded a Martha Stewart app, which is actually kinda cool, but one of the things you can do is design your wedding invitation which she did.

I was, all at once: shocked, afraid, amused, sad, and charmed.  She typed it in traditionally: The parents request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter…etc. etc.  She had the place, time, border, trim, and font–just missing the all important NAME OF THE GROOM.

So of course I threw out a couple names–heartthrobs of the 7th grade, heartthrobs of the silver screen, childhood friends who are more like brothers which made her scream and hit me.  But obviously and thank god, she didn’t really have anyone in mind.  She was happy to leave that part mercifully blank…just a line of question marks ????????? and those question marks of course led to the inevitable questions: How did you know Daddy was the one?  How many boyfriends did you have before Daddy?  (like serious boyfriends? or flings? or what are we talking about here?)  I gave her the skeletal version of the story of my life pre-wedding to husband #1–16 years ago.  So leaving out the riff raff, there were basically 2 semi-contenders though not really.  But I wanted her to think that I didn’t just leap into the arms of the  first guy who asked me nor did I want her to think that I’d been ravaged and rejected over and over.  Basically there was the artist, the musician, the navy seal, the addict…sounds like the Breakfast Club: a jock, a princess, a nerd, a basket case and a felon…the funny thing is that I know she was picturing a group shot of guys that looked sort-of like her dad…maybe a little shorter or taller…brown eyes instead of blue…but in her mind her parents are so unbelievably well matched that it’s hard for her to imagine me with anyone else.  I wonder what would happen to her fragile little eggshell mind if she actually saw a photo line up of that motley crew of fellows.  Suffice to say, there weren’t too few and there weren’t too many—a nice variety of test runs before making that oh so important choice in life partner and sire to one’s offspring.  I will proudly say that I never let any glaring differences stop me from hanging out with someone that made me laugh.  Luckily I did not procreate with the addict but he served his purpose at the time.  Lesson learned and all that.

In this charming tale just in time for the uber-romantic holiday Valentine’s Day (gag), Otter falls in love with a fish—essentially, his food source –and so then must seek advice and counsel from his woodland creature friends.  He’s in love, what can he do?  It’s beyond his control…or is it?  Can you help who you fall in love with…with whom you fall in love, I should say… is it all chemical reactions and pheromones and all that craziness?  Or once you get past puberty, should you be able to make wiser, more informed choices about love?  And should you?  Who really knows? I want my daughters to be open to something new and different.

When I got to college I met a guy in one of my English classes who could not have been more different from the sun kissed California boys I was used to: he had greasy hair and skin so white it was almost blue.  He  wore combat boots and smoked cigarettes.  He was really tall and painfully thin.  He actually kinda smelled.  But one day in class I noticed that he was taking notes with a fountain pen, writing in calligraphy, and translating the abstract and disorganized lecture we were hearing  into a perfectly spaced and coherent outline, complete with roman numerals and indentations.  It was a weird little moment of insight that seemed so incongruous with my badass perception of him. One day he asked me to have tea with him after class.  He turned out to be easily one of the smartest and most amazing people I have ever known—to this day.  My life is better because he was in it for a time, and I hope my girls will be open to things that seem different and foreign…maybe not as extreme as it is for Otter, falling in love with his food source, but at least a little outside their comfort bubble!

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