Top positive review
Different in a good way
Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2013
Re-reading this book as an adult, I think this may be Beverly Cleary's most interesting piece of fiction. Most of Cleary's characters are ordinary kids (Henry, Beezus, Ellen) or unusually spunky but otherwise still ordinary kids (Ramona) who live in two-parent homes with yards. Otis, on the other hand, has a single mom, lives in an apartment, and has behavior issues. He's not a bad kid by any means, but he's impulsive, easily bored, and has a very hard time thinking through the long-term consequences of his actions. He's like a jack-in-the-box where all of Cleary's other protagonists are regular dolls. And yet, Cleary writes his character as masterfully as she does the "ordinary" children she usually writes about. She gets inside Otis's head to make the reader understand exactly why he behaves the way he does, to make it make sense, but you can also see, outside his head, why he irritates everyone all the time. I find myself feeling sorry for Otis because he would be happier if he did make progress in learning to think before he acts, which he never seems to do, not even when he finally gets his come-uppance.
Reading this book right after Mitch and Amy sparked a GREAT discussion with my child about the difference between a kid who's just being annoying (Otis Spofford) and a kid who's actually being a bully (Alan Hibbler).