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“Stay away from sharks. Stay away from humans. Stay away from all things you don’t understand,” Mother. – Odder
by Katherine Applegate
Meet Odder, the Queen of Play:
Nobody has her moves.
She doesn’t just swim to the bottom,
She doesn’t just somersault,
She doesn’t just ride the waves,
She makes them.
Odder spends her days off the coast of central California, practicing her underwater acrobatics and spending time with a good friend. She’s a fearless daredevil, curious to a fault. But when Odder comes face-to-face with a hungry great white shark, her life takes a dramatic turn, one that will challenge everything she believes about herself—and the humans who hope to save her.
Humans love otters because they are adorably cute, but Odder weaves a story that gives the otters personality. Odder is an adventurous otter who readers will quickly fall in love with. Best friends Odder and Kairi are complete opposites. Cautious Kairi is always reminding Odder to be more careful, but Odder gets caught up in the excitement and often forgets.
One day, Odder is so focused on finding a tasty crab to eat that she goes too far out in the bay. A hungry shark sees the otters and takes a bite of Kairi. In order to save her friend, Odder attacks the shark. Later, humans find Odder and she’s taken to an aquarium to get medical attention. Odder is consumed with grief over the loss of her best friend. Later, she learns that Kairi survived the shark attack and she is also at the aquarium!
However, the shark attack has changed Odder, who is no longer fearless. When Odder is reunited with Kairi, she has just lost her pup and has become a surrogate mother. While Kairi has always been careful, she wants the pup to be returned to the ocean. At first, Odder thinks that keeping the pup safe is the most important job for a mother. But when Odder becomes a surrogate, she learns that “teaching and loving are different words for the same thing” and that “the world is not meant to be feared.”
Odder is inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers. Applegate uses beautiful free verse to bring Odder’s ocean world to life as well as to teach readers interesting facts about the ocean’s biodiversity and otters’ importance in keeping the ocean healthy. The survival of otters is important because they are a “keystone species. . . they are nature’s glue, holding habitats together.” Odder will give readers a deeper appreciation for the beloved otter and for the people who are helping save the species.
From the start, Applegate weaves a beautiful story about friendship, love, and the gift of freedom. By the story’s end, readers will be able to view the world from an otter’s point of view and will have a new appreciation of ocean life. In addition, through Odder’s experiences, readers will be reminded that all wild animals should have the chance to live in their natural habitat. While Odder is an entertaining and easy-to-read story, it is a must-read because of its educational value.
- One day, Otter and Kairi get too close to the bay and a shark sees them. “Odder sees the terror in her friend’s eyes.” The two try to swim away, but Odder “hears a strangled cry, and turns to see the shark has nipped her friend’s tail, as the awful stench of blood blooms in the water.”
- In order to save Kairi from the shark, Odder attacks the shark. “As [the shark] moves in for the kill, he’s met with sheer movement, flipping and twisting, an eruption of bubbles, the reek of fear.” Because of Odder, the shark can’t go after Kairi, and “so he veers and there she [Odder] is and his mouth is open wide and waiting and clamp snap gnash she is trapped in his jaws.” When the shark tastes Odder’s fur, he drops Odder.
- After the shark lets Odder go, she swims to the shore. She has a “gaping wound on her belly” and is “drained of blood and hope.” Humans find her and take her to an aquarium to be cared for.
- Odder tells the story of the Fifty, when “humans were killing us for our fur.” The back of the book explains the story in more detail.
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