Ottoline is a character created by children’s illustrator and writer, Chris Riddell.
Riddell is probably best known for his collaborations with Paul Stewart, resulting in the Edge Chronicles.
Ottoline is a young girl who lives with her friend Mr. Munroe, a hairy creature who resembles Cousin It from The Addam’s Family. Mr. Munroe is a bog creature who was found by Ottoline’s parents living in a Norwegian bog. Mr. Munroe hates bogs and hates being cold and wet. Ottoline’s parents, who are explorers and collectors, collected Mr. Munroe and brought him home to live with Ottoline while they continue travelling round the world on their adventures.
Ottoline, as you can imagine, is a rather eccentric, and very self sufficient person. She has a magnificent number of collections; including tea pots and odd shoes. She also likes to solve problems.
In each of the books Ottoline and Mr. Munroe stumble upon a mystery which they must solve.
The books are short and the text is fairly simple. The joy of the books come from the surreal craziness of the world Ottoline inhabits, and the delightful illustrations which occupy every page and which really bring the stories, and the world to life. Riddell’s illustrations are instantly recognisable from the many books he has written and illustrated, and their quirkiness is perfectly suited to the world he creates.
The simplicity of the text is made rich by the drawings and annotations to the drawings that Riddell peppers the pages with. The annotations often create a kind of sub text or conversation with the reader that is linked to the main text, and which children love to read and follow themselves, even if an adult is reading them the main story.
The stories are funny, and the mysteries are not terribly mysterious, but they are lots of fun to read. The graphic rich nature of the text makes it a perfect crossover book for children who are moving away from picture books into novels, but who cannot quite cope with a novel full of words yet. These books are perfect for children who enjoy books like the Tom Gates series by Liz Pichon, as they are text light, illustration heavy, but still look like real books, so children don’t feel that they are dumbing down when they read them.
The books are suitable for young children, as books that can be read to them by adults, and the pictures mean that there are lots of points the child can pick up on and discuss with the adult as they read. They are excellent for newly confident child readers, and older readers who enjoy surreal stories.
They are suitable for boys and girls, because although Ottoline, the main character is a girl, the books are not at all girly, and the humour is universal.