One semester in college, which is now mainly memorable for its academic, social, and meteorological bleakness, I started doodling in the margins of my notebook during a particularly scintillating 400-level afternoon French class. These doodles transmitted themselves into random paragraphs on the library computer during work, and they eventually became a half-formed idea for a story about a small boy named Felix. Felix wears rectangular black glasses (essentially, hipster glasses before I knew what hipster glasses were or how awesome they are) and lives with his parents in a large, old hotel. He doesn’t have any friends his age, but instead hangs out with all the old people and the staff at the hotel. Essentially, Eloise for older kids. Or Harriet the Spy for less neurotic kids.
Oh, hello, Ottoline. Or rather, hello, Chris Riddell. You had the same idea, only better. And you actually did it, which also makes it better. Kudos to you.
I discovered the Ottoline books while purchasing my mom a birthday card back in July. My favorite card at the store (the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, btdubs) was a bright red one with a cute little sketch of a girl on it (also some shiny swirls and “Happy Birthday”). Neither my mom nor I had any idea who the girl was, but by the time I came home from Denver a month later, my mother had purchased Ottoline Goes to School and Ottoline and the Yellow Cat (there’s also Ottoline at Sea).
Ottoline’s parents are famous collectors, and as such, are always off travelling the globe, leaving Ottoline in their apartment in the Pepperpot Building with Mr. Munroe, her caretaker. Ottoline’s parents rescued Mr. Munroe from a bog in Norway shortly before Ottoline was born; he looks rather like Cousin Itt with furry feet, and doesn’t speak. The two of them have a very close bond, and gallivant around the Pepperpot Building/the Big City/other areas of the world solving mysteries. The books are complete with very amusingly detailed and labelled drawings, which, if you recall the birthday card story, is what attracted me in the first place.
I’m always surprised when I come across children’s authors I really like, namely because, while I love children’s books, the ones I love and keep reading are the same ones I read when I was little, and I’m of the rather crotchety opinion that current authors aren’t as good as the classics. The Ottoline books were one of those pleasant surprises that renew my faith in children’s publishing.
NEWS: I know I am only three posts in. But. I think it is necessary that I call a hiatus on this blog for a while. In my constant post-surgery adventure of battling pain and nausea, this post on Ottoline took me two days to write, and I couldn’t even post on Edgar Sawtelle. I have such grand ideas for my next post, and I do not want to even attempt it until I’m sure I can do it in one sitting. I’m sorry! I will return as soon as I can.