A stick, a leaf, and a rock, what more do you need in life? Maybe a Debbie. A Debbie? you ask. What do you mean by a Debbie? You know, a furless, two-legged friend.

Ooko the fox is certain that he needs a Debbie, and even changes his appearance to get one to like him. Ooko becomes a spotted, big-eared fox with a fluff ball on top. “No Debbie can resist me now!” He gets scooped up right away (having been mistaken for a Debbie’s pet pup). “BRRR!…GRRR!…OOOF!” Ooko discovers that he doesn’t like playing games with this Debbie, and longs to play stick. He meets a like-minded raccoon, and realises that he can and should be himself, his true self. “I don’t need to look like the other foxes to find a friend!”

Ooko, by Esme Shapiro, is a quirky tale about friendship and being true to yourself. It’s a little journey of discovery. Ooko ventures out into the world, learns new things, gains new experiences, finds a new friend, and in the end, he’s comfortable in his own fur. “To each their own.” The story encourages not only an acceptance of ourself, but also an acceptance of others for who they are.

The language used is great fun. No Problemo! Easy-peasy. Voila! Oh My Crickets! And the best, Debbies! There’s humour—Ooko looks for a friend under a moose, and can lift the thing over his head. Lol! There’s sweetness, sadness, longing, joy. And the illustrations—My Stars! Ooh-la-la! They’re gorgeous. Bold colours, offbeat characters, so much variation and texture, and all of this harmonises beautifully together. It’s a superb book. A keeper.

  • Published by Tundra Books
  • 4-8 years
  • 4.5