About the Holiday
Rivers are beautiful, provide recreation, and are crucial to our water supply. Did you know that in the United States 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams? This month environmentalists and others promote awareness of the importance of keeping the nation’s rivers pollution free to protect the fish and animals that call them home and increase enjoyment for all. To help the cause, join a volunteer river clean-up crew, help monitor water quality, or learn more about your local river system. Whether you like to fish, swim, boat, or just laze on the bank, June is the perfect month to get out on a river! You might even see some otters—the subject of today’s book!
Otters Love to Play
Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Meilo So
It’s spring and two otters have moved into an abandoned beaver lodge to start a family. In a soft nest of moss, leaves, and grass the mother otter gives birth to three pups. The pups first open their eyes to the world when they are five weeks old. At two months old they’re ready to come out of the den to play. Playtime is fun, but for the baby otters it’s also work. Running, twisting, wrestling, and matches of tug-of-war teach valuable hunting skills and solidify family bonds.
As spring turns to summer, the pups’ thick waterproof coats grow in, and it’s time for swimming lessons to begin. There are no floaties here! The mother otter simply grabs her charges by the scruff of the neck and drops them into the river. Their mother shows them how to dive and glide and come to the surface as they follow her single file. “Within days, the otter pups gracefully spin and flip and swish like underwater acrobats.” Again and again “they scramble up a mud slide and SLIIIIIIIIIIIDE back down to the water—Ka-Spash!”
By the end of the summer the pups know how to catch small fish and how to nudge out frogs, crayfish, turtles, and snakes from their hiding places among the rocks. Autumn brings more opportunities for fun as the nearly full-grown pups tumble in the fallen leaves. Even winter’s blasts don’t deter the otters. With their thick fur they roll in the snow and catch fish in the icy river water.
But an ominous shadow appears on the fresh snow as the pups belly-slide down a snowbank. Something is waiting and watching…. So too is mother otter. Screaming and hunching she “slides across the snow and with a terrible GRRRROWL…scares the fox away!” Throughout the winter the otters snuggle in their den, and when the rainy spring makes muddy river banks, the otters come out and speed down the slippery slide “because otters love to play!”
You can’t help but love otters. Watching them dive, swim, and frolic just puts a smile on your face. And what’s more these sleek river creatures are fascinating animals! Jonathon London has written a story that captures the spirit and exuberance of one otter family while incorporating intriguing facts about their dens, birth statistics, purposeful play, hunting techniques, protective fur, predators, and defenses—did you know that otters can slide on snow at speeds up to 18 miles (29 kilometers) per hour?! London’s lyrical journey through the first year of an otter’s life makes captivating reading for young children just navigating the world themselves.
Meilo So’s enchanting otter family will delight readers. Images of the pups somersaulting, sliding, splashing, and swimming charmingly depict the sleek, supple movements of these frisky animals. Their smooth coats, rendered in soft browns with white and black accented texture, and their mischievous, ever-present smiles are realistically portrayed, inviting kids to reach out and pet them. So’s river scenes are beautiful—the pale blue water reflects deep gold and green trees, pink and yellow wildflowers and delicate green grasses flutter along the river bank, and the depths of the underwater world swirl with muted sage greens and blues as the otter pups frolic among gray- and olive-hued fish. Autumn comes with fiery orange and purple leaves, and winter falls shivery white as the russet fox is chased away.
Otters Love to Play would be a lovely gift for any child and a welcome addition to any classroom or school library.
Ages 4 – 8
Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763669133
Visit Jonathan London’s website for more books by this prolific author.
View more books and art by Meilo So.
National Rivers Month Activity
Otter Coloring Page
You “otter” love this coloring page, with its cute river creature who has just caught dinner! You can color it with pencils, crayons, or markers or consider making a collage with bits of paper, cloth, or leaves and sticks. Give the otter a den to snuggle in and a river for frolicking! Here’s your Otter Coloring Page!