Written by Rena Cherry Brown
Illustrated by Mikaila Maidment
Otter Lee Brave. My first thought was, “This is such an adorable cover. The otters are just the sweetest little fellows. I’m sure this will be an cute story about otters.” Then, I said the title again – Otter Lee Brave, Utter Lee Brave, Utterly Brave. Odd, yet interesting. I am hooked, and I have to read this book, and I feel sure 4th graders will as well.
Upon reading the story, it becomes very evident that Otter Lee Brave is so much more than just a sweet story about cute creatures. Rena Cherry Brown creates several plot points that will teach the reader many lessons. Throughout the story, Lee learns to be brave in all circumstances. First, he tries diving to the bottom of the bay for the first time, with his mom gently encouraging him. Next, Lee learns how to comfort himself in times of trouble. When Lee is picked up and taken to an aquarium, he learns to adapt to the situation. While Lee is bullied by a large otter in the aquarium, he is also adopted by an older female, learning the good and bad of characters in life. An earthquake causes the aquarium to bust open and all the otters are swept into the bay. While they are not equipped with open water survival skills, Lee teaches them how to hold on to kelp to prevent them from floating away. There he learns to be a leader. Even when the bully is in trouble, and Lee is the only one who knows and can save him, Lee considers the actions he could take and ultimately decides to save the bully otter learning bravery. And, like all good otter stories, Lee stays in the bay and makes a connection with a female otter – and they live happily every after I assume. He is Otter Lee Brave.
The story is interesting, but the illustrations are fabulous. Mikaila Maidment uses each page to bring life to the book. You feel the tenderness of motherly love. You feel the security a kelp bed can give and the sadness of the loss of a loved one. You feel the anxiousness of a new environment. You feel the weakness of being bullied. You feel the fear of the unknown. You feel the hope for a future. You feel young love at the end. All of these feelings come from the amazing artwork of Maidment.
Within the story line, readers gain small facts about the otter world, such as what their environment is like, what their diet consists of, and what obstacles and predators they must avoid. The last page contains a list of “Otter Facts.” The story, lessons learned, facts and illustrations all combine for an increased level of reading comprehension for readers of all ages.