Sunday, February 19, 2012


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Otis Spofford, Beverly Cleary, William Morrow and Company, 1953, 191 pp


Otis Spofford is the "bad boy" in the neighborhood. His mother is a single parent, the ballet teacher of the town, and is not home much. He first appeared in Ellen Tebbits, where he was fond of tormenting Ellen.

In this volume he gets his own story and is introduced like this: "There was nothing Otis Spofford liked better than stirring up a little excitement." He proceeds to stir up trouble at school and in the neighborhood but always weasels his way out. He clearly is in need of attention.

Eventually he meets his match when one of Ellen's friends gets her to stand up to him. (Otis has been chasing Ellen on the way to school and indulging in other torments.) Ellen gets him good and he pays a mighty price, but in the end the balance of power shifts only a small amount.

The book left me feeling uneasy. In one way it was true to its times, because kids mainly had to work out their troubles with each other on their own in those days. These days with the huge amount of attention on bullying, Otis looks unrealistically innocent. But Cleary does present an example of how to fight back.

(Otis Spofford is on the children's shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.

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