Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Picture Book: Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells

Story Summary of Otto Runs for President
Excitement fills the building as election time at Barkadelphia School is announced.  Tiffany, a popular poodle, and Charles, an all-star bulldog, are both certain they will be the next student body president.  Tiffany’s and Charles’ parents eagerly provide them with expensive signs and advertising. Their campaigns are run on their personal preferences.   Tiffany pledges to provide more mirrors in the girls’ room, barkaloungers instead of desks, and preferred seating in the cafeteria.   Charles promises skateboards in the halls, soda in the water fountains, and more meat for lunch.  They assume everyone will vote for them because they are popular and attractive.  Otto, a pensive and quiet student, decides to run for class president as well.  When he asks his classmates about their preferences, he finds out they want watermelon at lunch, a homework helpline, blankets for the kindergartens,  drums for the music time, and a class field trip.  As Charles beefs up his campaign promises, Tiffany and her friends begin to fight dirty.  They place sticky notes all over the lockers and school  making accusations that Charles is a cheater.  Charles is furious by this personal slander, so he retaliates by calling Tiffany a thief.  They are so busy fighting each other that they don’t notice Otto and his friends handing out cookies and showing concern for their classmates’ priorities.  When the election results are finally in, Otto wins.  He quickly works to follow through with his campaign promises to his classmates. 

Accompanying the prose effectively are bright illustrations highlighting adorable animals in action, often in multiple events on a two-page spread.  While on the surface Otto Runs for President (by Rosemary Wells) is about elections, the values it illustrates are timeless.  First, the characters demonstrate how people in elections and in life rely on superficial qualities, such as popularity, beauty, or athletics.  While it wins Tiffany and Charles some friends, it alienates many people because they never show genuine concern for their classmates.  Second,  it exemplifies how a person can be successful with hard work and the proper priorities.  Otto keeps his campaign simple, focusing on listening to everyone in the school—even the kindergartens.  He makes campaign cookies with key words like “hotline” and “blankets” to let everyone know he is listening and he cares.  Also, this tale shows the importance of integrity.  Otto makes sure to fulfill his promises.  Shortly after the election, many of the items arrive—blankets, watermelon, and drums.  Even the field trip is planned.  Finally, this book is ideal to use during local, state, national, or even school elections.  Students receive a glimpse of the campaign process and learn an essential lesson on how to win with honor. 

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