Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

by Tomi Ungerer

Book, 2010



Call number

E 736 UNG



New York : Phaidon Press, c2010.


A teddy bear tells his life story, beginning with his creation in Germany prior to World War II, and continuing through the war and on to America, where eventually he is miraculously reunited with his original owner.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rdg301library
This is a heartfelt historical fiction piece about the injustice of the Holocaust seen through the eyes of a teddy bear, who is a mutual friend between a German and Jewish boy. It relates the heartbreak of friends being separated during a dark time in history, and how difference affected many
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relationships during this time period. Although it has a happy ending, it allows children to think about people treated others in the past.

Bullying does not just take place in schools or on the buses. It also takes place around the world in all different types of settings. It is important to expose students to many different types of bullying, and show them that others around the world are mistreated as well. The Holocaust is a very sensitive and emotional topic that would be covered in history, and this book could be incorporated into a Holocaust lesson plan to teach about the event.
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LibraryThing member pennsylady
Summary: Teddy bear Otto tells the story of his journey from among Jewish children in WWII Germany to the United States years later where he is reunited with David, his original owner."

"powerful tale of enduring friendship"

reread 9/5/2014 for a challenge.

This German autobiography is a
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wonderful historically rich tale of a teddy bear (Otto).
Genre could be listed as juvenile historical fiction.

Topics addressed would include Jewish culture, World War II, African Americans, soldiers and accolades.
Friendhip, loss and love are interwoven in the story.

The setting is Germany and later the United States.

A tale worth a second glance for you and the children in your life.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
An antique teddy bear reflects on his life in this poignant picture-book from Tomi Ungerer, a master of the form. Made in Germany, the toy bear is given as a gift to a young boy named David, is named Otto, and is shared with David's best friend Oskar. When David and his family are taken away, Otto
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is given to Oskar, with whom he lives for a time. Then bombs begin to fall, Otto is separated from Oskar, and is eventually found by an American GI named Charlie. Taken to America by Charlie, Otto becomes the companion of Charlie's daughter Jasmin. After a number of other adventures, including being discarded in a garbage can, found by a homeless woman, and displayed in an antique shop window, Otto is reunited with Oskar. Even more surprisingly, he and Oskar are then reunited with David. Together again after so many years, the three friends move in together...

Originally published in German in 1999, this gentle picture-book offers an exploration of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, as seen by a creature - a stuffed teddy bear - with no agency of his own, and no ability to do anything but observe the madness around him. Although my first instinct is to conclude that it is not a good introduction to the history of this period for younger children - I think you would need to know something about the events of that time already, in order to understand why David and his family are being taken away, why bombs are being dropped on Oskar and his mother, or why Charlie is over there fighting - perhaps Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear doesn't need to be. Although the specific linear narrative of WWII and the Holocaust isn't set out in its pages - no explanations are given for the tragedies that Otto witnesses - the stupidity of the friends' separation, the grief of their losses, and the pain of Charlie's wounds, are all ably captured in the story. If explanations for the wider conflict in which all the human characters around Otto are caught up, are not forthcoming, isn't that true to childhood? So many times the adult world, although it impinges in terrible ways on children, is a mystery to those same children, who observe it, but frequently fail to really understand it. The suffering that children must endure as the result of adult actions, on the other hand, is all too real, and immediately comprehensible to other children. Losing first a toy, then a friend, then one's family - all as the result of only partially understand adult politics - these are things that child readers and listeners, whether they have already learned the history or not, are capable of understanding

So perhaps to ask the question, "Does Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear offer a good introduction to the history of WWII and the Holocaust?," is to miss the point. Perhaps it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of an aspect of the story that makes it particularly powerful, as a tale meant for children. I'll have to ponder that. Whatever the case may be, there's no question that the story here is a powerful one, and left me moved. I was reminded of another WWII friendship story in picture-book form that I read a few years ago - Amy Littlesugar's Willy and Max: A Holocaust Story, which was likewise poignant. The artwork here is just powerful as the text, although a little different in style from some of Ungerer's earlier work from the 1960s and 1970s. I thought I saw some influences from Maurice Sendak here, particularly in the depiction of the human figures. I'm disappointed, but by no means surprised to discover, from my friend Manny's review (available on goodreads), that the final scene in David's apartment, which contained some nude sketches of women in the original edition, has been altered in this English-language, American edition. There's a layer of meaning (again, explored in Manny's review) that is lost as a result. Leaving that issue aside, this is a book that I would highly recommend... and to whom? To anyone looking for powerful children's stories about the ways that war and wartime atrocities affect children.
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Original language



0714857661 / 9780714857664
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