I'm not feeling too good about rats right now (you can listen to my podcast to hear my reasoning). So I went into OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE with one strike against it (the title character has a pet rat).
It's the story of a boy yanked from his natural habitat (anywhere a kid feels comfortable) when his family moves to New York and into the very odd Tidwell Towers. But wait – I did not read the book, I heard the soundtrack. Illustrator David Heatley decided the subject material was too rich for mere drawings. He created an accompanying CD, complete with an "Otis Dooda Theme" and songs about the various characters and situations.
It's tough to get boys to read books. I know, I have a 12-year-old and he'd rather play a game on the iPad or watch a video. But he loves music. And if music can organically bring him to reading something new, more power to it.
Author Ellen Potter went through the same mini "crisis" with her seven year old son, Ian. Using his suggestions, Potter drew from her childhood, where she lived in a New York City apartment building and made up crazy stories about the other inhabitants.
STRANGE BUT TRUE chronicles Otis' encounters with "Subway Zombies," "Peaches the French Gerbil Hound," and Potted Plant Guy." Otis befriends a girl neighbor named Cat, leading to "Up In Cat's Room," an adolescent Velvet Underground take on Bruce Springsteen's "Candy's Room."
Coming into OTIS DOODA from the music end, it reminded me of Andy Z's GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS. Except Andy Z produced a "Tubby the Tuba"-esque radio play. Potter and Heatley have created a hand-in-hand multimedia project. You can listen to the music and picture the characters, but it helps to have the roadmap. I'd suggest a color PDF for anyone who buys the CD electronically, to give them a true taste of Dooda. Yeah, I know how that sounds.
I'd give OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE by itself an "incomplete." My son loves music and this CD will eventually go into his rotation. Now if I could only get him to willingly read the book. But that's another story.
OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE is available at the book's Web site, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.
Here is the animated (Lego) book trailer: