Otto’s Orange Day

Written by Jay Lynch
Art by Frank Cammuso
40 pages, color
Published by Toon Books

Françoise Mouly is known for all sorts of accomplishments; being the co-editor and publisher of the independent comics anthology RAW, a lengthy stint as the art director for The New Yorker, curator of art exhibits. I must admit, though, that when I hear her name one of the first things that leaps to mind for me is her work on the Little Lit series of books, taking both cartoonists and children’s book creators and having them collaborate to create short stories using the comic book format but pushed through the children’s book market. Now, Mouly’s done it again with her new line of Toon Books, creating children’s books that are told using comic books’s sequential art. When the end result is like Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso’s Otto’s Orange Day, well, it’s hard to believe that more people aren’t doing just this.

Otto the Cat likes orange. Wait, that’s not quite accurate. Otto the Cat loves orange. If it was up to him, everything would be orange! When Otto’s Aunt Sally sends him a magic lamp containing a genie, Otto realizes that now his dream can come true. But an all-orange world isn’t all Otto imagined—and without a second wish to change things back, what can Otto do?

Lynch’s story is aimed at readers in the 5 to 8 range, and I have to say that if I had a child that old I know what they’d be reading. I really appreciated that Lynch never talked down to his audience; while everything is spelled out for the reader carefully, it doesn’t come across as condescending or patronizing. The story itself is fun and cute; Otto’s song about all things orange made me laugh, and I absolutely love the scene when everything has become orange and Otto goes outside to see his creation. Each burst of excitement as he spies something newly orange, be it a duck or a clown, is pretty contagious. Lynch has a good handle on just how to write for kids, as well as any adults that might be looking over the kid’s shoulder. What also impressed me, though, is how Lynch handled the ending. It’s a combination of smart thinking on both Aunt Sally and Otto’s parts, and it teaches something to kids without being cloying or over the top. For a book that’s just 40 pages, I was impressed at how full this story felt.

Cammuso’s art in his book Max Hamm was always a lot of fun, so it’s no surprise to find that he’s just as good in Otto’s Orange Day. The book wouldn’t have been half as effective without Cammuso drawing Otto’s emotions so lovingly displayed. From Otto patting an orange garden gnome on a head or zooming by orange bees, to hiding behind a trash can in terror, you always know just how Otto’s feeling. Otto seems to almost bounce across the page with energy here, and I can just see kids squirming with delight at the art. As a comic aimed at younger readers, Cammuso is careful to keep the storytelling very straightforward and easy to follow, which is exactly what is needed.

Otto’s Orange Day is an absolute delight to read—I’m already planning on buying multiple copies for all of my friends’s children. I must admit, though, that I’ll probably keep one for myself. If Lynch and Cammuso ever want to collaborate on another children’s book, I can promise them that I will be ready and waiting to buy a copy. Just one of the first three Toon Books offerings for this spring, I can’t think of a better way to start a line. This is just fun from start to finish.

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