Cammuso, F., & Lynch, J. (2008). Otto’s Orange Day. New York: The Little Lit Library.
Otto the cat is at home coloring with his favorite color crayon, orange. As he completes a picture of a lamp, he sings an ode to his favorite color. This cat loves orange. In the mail, Otto receives a package from from his aunt, inside is a mysterious orange lamp. When Otto rubs it, a genie emerges, ready to grant Otto’s wish. And what does Otto wish for? Why that EVERYTHING were orange, of course! He soon realizes that this may not have been the best wish ever and that there is a place for all the colors of the spectrum. Of course, finding a way to return the world to its natural state will prove difficult since a certain genie is under no obligation to grant anymore wishes.
Structured as a chapter book, Otto’s Orange Day does include some fun with language and colors and can easily be used in a lesson that celebrates differences among people.
While the genie is never described as being from a particular culture., it would be possible to find reason to disapprove of his characterization and appearance as stereotypical since he wears a vest, a giant ‘G’ necklace, has a gold tooth, small mustache and beard and calls young Otto ‘master.’ (SLIGHT SPOILER—Of course, the unnamed genie and Otto do end up being friends at the end neither the genie nor interactions among cultures are the focus, so a multicultural counter argument could be made easily if any parent did take offence)
This would be an good choice to pair with the Aladdin cartoons (but again, questions of stereotypes could be raised). After that a teacher could go farther to share an illustrated version of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and begin to share lessons on Arab and Indian cultures.
Activities to Do with the Book:
This is a good “child’s first graphic novel.” While both the illustrations and text are necessary to make meaning of the story, the text does give a few extra clues to help make certain young readers can follow the plot.
If this is in fact a reader’s first exposure to a graphic novel a teacher or parent should be at the ready to talk the child through the differences between narration, dialogue, song and thought bubbles.
After paging through his story in small groups or literature circles, students could create illustrations, songs, poems or comic strips featuring their own favorite colors.
Another angle to focus on would be the genie. If a student could wish for anything, what would it be? They could then create a story or illustration of them getting their wish.
“Orange was Otto the cat’s favorite color. Without orange things, the world would be boring” (p. 8).
“You freed me from the lamp; I have to grant you a wish. But each owner gets only ONE wish, so choose wisely” (p. 13).
“I wish that everything in the world was orange!”
“Orange homes…with orange gnomes! Orange skirts...and orange shirts! Orange clowns in orange gowns!” (p. 16).
“Here you go. An orange lamb chop, orange spinach, orange mashed potatoes…Oh—and don’t forget to drink your orange milk!” (p. 21).