Friday, June 5, 2009

Josh The Baby Otter

It's not often ... OK, it's never happened before ... that someone sends me a children's book to review. So when "Josh The Baby Otter: A tale promoting water safety for children" by Blake Collingsworth, and adorably illustrated by Ashley Spitsnogle, arrived in the mail, I didn't want to just ignore it.

"Josh The Baby Otter" (published by Blake Collingsworth, 2009, $8.95) is the tale of, well, a baby otter named Josh who is urged by his mommy otter to learn to float before he can go off and swim with his buddies. And, young Josh is told by his mom, he must never, EVER, swim alone.

"It's time we started talking to children about the dangers of water. Yes, water is fun, but ONLY WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER," the author writes on a release that accompanied the book.

The book includes a sing-a-long CD, along with words and music, to a song called "Learn to Float" that hammers the message home.

At the end of the tiny little book is when you learn that it's dedicated to the author's son, Josh, who died at the age of 2 and a half in the family's backyard pool, presumably trying to fill his water gun. The family's mission is to spread the news that drowning is the No. 1 cause of death to kids ages 1 to 4. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to drowning prevention education, instruction and the development of new innovative safety equipment through the Joshua Collingsworth memorial Foundation (

It is obviously a labor of love and tragic loss. The book is dedicated to Joshua Collingsworth, with a small photo of the gorgeous toddler on the dedication page, and the back cover includes a photo and memorium.

My hesitation is that the book, however inviting with cute otters throughout, will scare the bejesus out of young children. I would like to pass this along to three of my nieces, ages 3, 7 and 9, who love all creatures furry, enjoy singing along of any type and continue to excel at their swimming lessons, but am concerned the oldest two will fixate on the child and his tragic death.

I feel for the author and his family. They have obviously been through hell. Maybe a little bit of scary is worth a whole lot of caution.

I will give the book the ultimate test of sending it to my sister. She will know within seconds whether she feels it is acceptable to be passed along to the girls.

Notably, the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation has, as of May 1, donated a copy of this book to every elementary school in the Collingsworths' home state of Nebraska with a "plea to teachers and administrators to please read this book and talk to your young students before school recesses for the summer break."

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