If You Take Away the Otter

Written By: Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Illustrated by: Matthew Trueman

For Ages: 5 and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Pint-Sized Professor, Ecosystems, Kelp Forests, History, Fur Trade, Near-Extinction, Otters.


This book is a beautiful explanation of both the delicate balance of kelp forest ecosystems and the near-extinction of otters at the turn of the twentieth century due to the fur trade. I like the way this book explains things very well, but not using shock-value or violent imagery. Kelp forests are beautiful, magical places! The illustrations are gorgeous, in majority blues and greens, as if the reader is underwater within the forests themselves.

If You Take Away the Otter does a great job of explaining how ecosystems are a delicate balance, and there can be unforeseen consequences to disrupting it. When the otter populations plummeted, sea urchins took over which uprooted the kelp, which caused fish to swim elsewhere, which caused birds to eat each other and the land to begin to erode-SO many things happened because one animal population’s changed. Luckily, protection laws (which exempted Indigenous peoples practicing cultural traditions) prevented hunting and the otters began to come back. These lessons are really important to younger generations, so they can understand the implications of losing just one animal. Climate change is already affecting the globe in ways we are just beginning to understand the full implications of, and it’s our obligation to be stewards of the land whenever possible.

The book was kindly sent to us by Candlewick Press, but all opinions are my own.

Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Susannah is the author of this book and Predator and Prey: A Conversation in Verse as well as a biologist with a PhD in animal behavior. In addition to her academic work and writing, she has developed inquiry-based ecology curricula for children. Susannah lives in upstate New York with her family.

Information taken from back book flap.

Matthew Trueman

Matthew Trueman spent his childhood in Italy but returned to the United States to attend art school. He is the illustrator of A PICTURE FOR MARC and NOAH’S MITTENS. He lives in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

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