Otterly entertained by the Golden Rule

Do unto otters: A book about mannersBook review of Laurie Kelley’s Do unto Otters: A book about manners

By guest reviewer Jill Zingarelli

We all remember the Golden Rule, right? It was drilled into us at home, in grade school and summer camp. Now that we are a bit older and hopefully well-practiced in its virtuous ways, let us re-visit the Golden Rule one more time.

Okay, here it goes: “Do unto otters, as you would have otters do unto you.”

Otters??  That’s right, at least according to Laurie Keller, author of the new children’s book Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners.

In Keller’s book, Mr. Rabbit anxiously waits for a family of otters to move in next door. A wise owl tells him to treat the otters the way he would want to be treated. This leads Mr. Rabbit to reflect on what kinds of neighbors he wants the otters to be.

Mr. Rabbit would like the otters to say please, thank you, and excuse me. He wants them to be friendly, honest, to keep their promises, and to be considerate (e.g., by “not littering,” “being a good listener,” and “helping neighbor untangle ears”).

Other themes that Mr. Rabbit and his owl-Buddha touch on include cooperation, inclusion, forgiveness, and apology (“I’m sorry I used your ear as a tissue,” says the otter to Mr. Rabbit).

The messages that Do Unto Otters conveys are not especially new ones. However, it is the medium through which these messages are conveyed that makes it a book that parents should consider reading to their children. Keller does not preach, nor does she just produce a simple, recite-and-regurgitate doctrine of manners for little kids.

Instead, she successfully teaches the ever-relevant principles of the Golden Rule in a fun, entertaining, kid and adult friendly way (I caught myself giggling many times). Between talking clams, a surprisingly polite bee who asks before he stings, and an animated burping arrow who says “excuse me,” there is always something drawing your eyes to the page and to the timeless lessons on it.

If you are looking for a fun and easy way to teach children about the Golden Rule, or about peace and cooperation, consider buying Do Unto Otters. You will be otterly entertained.

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