When Otis Courted Mama

Little Blue Truck Cover

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell's life is mostly wonderful. He knows he's loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that's okay—Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a grrr form in his throat. Otis can't make jalapeño flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell's daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say "Adiós, Otis." But what will happen if she doesn't?


Set in the southwestern desert, this adorable, humble tale of how a young coyote copes with divorced parents will win children’s hearts. The cadence of the story, with its soothing repetition, balances the new dual-home reality of so many children today with the old comfort of Home where a child feels “loved through and through.” The beautifully toned gouache brushwork and large swatches of color are reminiscent of Rothko’s work on one page while evoking classic Golden Book aesthetics on the next.
— School Library Journal (starred review)

This excellent take on modern, blended families melds a believable, resonant story arc and winsome, child-appealing illustrations. —Kirkus (starred review)

McElmurry's. . . gouache illustrations revel in the desert setting, her homey paintings evoking the look of weather-beaten folk art while contributing to the story's overall humor and sweetness.
—Publishers Weekly

Like Otis, Appelt is a gifted storyteller, and families whose circumstances echo Cardell's will welcome this gentle story, which is nicely augmented by illustrator McElmurry's gouache pictures, with their vivid desert colors. —Booklist

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© 2014 Jill McElmurry