I can see where some people would absolutely love Ooko by Esme Shapiro. It is terribly quirky and has an offbeat sense of humor that is both charming and goofy. I can also see where some people would absolutely hate Ooko by Esme Shapiro. It is terribly quirky and has an offbeat sense of humor that is both annoying and sophomoric.
At first, I thought the character Ooko, based off the cover, was fennec fox. Or a squirrel. Possibly a raccoon. Or one of those creatures that have those huge eyes (I forget the name). Or more likely just some critter. Turns out Ooko is a fox. A fox with all a fox could need. He has a stick, leaf, and rock. Though, he is missing a friend. With a misunderstanding of what the furless “foxes” are called (humans he thinks are called Debbie’s) this four-legged-furry fox finds himself on a journey to find a friend to play with. Finally, he finds his very own Debbie, but it does not go as expected.
And this is where Ooko lost me. When Ooko finds an elderly human all the stereotypes are there: she is old, dresses funky, has bad eyesight, thinks Ooko is her dog and proceeds to be a crazy old lady babying her pet. It was cliched and not amusing at this point of time. Then again, this mixed-up humor could be the very thing that seals the deal for you.
The other part was how abstract things were. You can see a dog is a dog, a human a human, but since I was all over the place with Ooko himself, sometimes it just is not clear. The details were minimal and lacking for me. The colors were faded and added nothing for me. Yet, they can also be charming. While I did not hate them, I did not find myself saying that I must find this illustrator’s other works, but I know that their uniqueness will be a draw. They are artistic, unassuming, and just there. The author/illustrator has created their work and that is that.
While all ages can appreciate this “everyone has a someone/someplace to belong” theme, I think at least five and up will appreciate it best.