Riddell, Chris. Ottoline at Sea. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. Macmillan Children's Books, 2010. 176 pages. $14.99. ISBN 9781405050593.
This is the third installment of the adventures of Ottoline who lives in Big City with Mr. Munroe, a small, hairy, Norwegian Bog Person (he looks a little like Cousin It from the Addam's Family). When Mr. Munroe disappears, Ottoline follows a string of clues that lead her to Norway. She travels by submarine, visits the Polar Bear Shoe Co. (run by polar bears in an iceberg), and meets two green-nosed trolls. When she and Mr. Munroe are reunited, he is in the company of a very unhappy, mythical creature who needs a new lease on life and Ottoline has a clever plan. The illustrations are rendered in pen and ink, often labeled with extra information, diagrams and cutaways. This volume includes a reader's pair of "bog goggles" which can be used to examine specific illustrations for clues.
Though mostly for fun, this book could be used with older readers to examine the ways that the illustrations support and enhance a text. There are a couple of spreads that continue the story, but without any supporting or intervening text. Is this a chapter book? Or a graphic novel? This could stimulate an interesting discussion.
I enjoyed the first two stories of Ottoline's adventures, but the bog goggles were a gimmick and tricky to maneuver. There are several references to popular culture that would likely go over the heads of young readers and something about this episode felt a little bit forced.
Humor, Friendship, Mystery, Adventure, Fantasy
Ottoline is a little like Eloise (Thompson) if she grown up and left the Plaza Hotel, and without Nanny to keep her in line. The illustrations even echo Hilary Knight's style: mostly black and white ink drawings, with an occasional, single color. Though it is an illustrated chapter book and humorous, it is not a read-alike to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Kinney) books or Big Nate (Peirce).