The Otter Who Loved to Hold Hands By Heidi and Daniel Howarth



books for starting school

The Otter Who Loved to Hold Hands was given to my 5 year old son for Christmas. My Aunt, who gave it to him, knows that he is a gentle soul who loves to be close to his family and has had a little trouble separating at kinder. He is about to start school and this is the perfect book to help with that transition.


Otto and his family, like all otters, hold hands every night when they sleep. They do this so they don’t drift apart in the water while sleeping, but in the morning they all let go of each other’s hands so they can play and work. Otto doesn’t want to let go. Otto wants to hold his mother’s hand constantly. He is afraid of trying new things and he is very afraid of being alone. Then one day, Otto’s Mum finds a special shell and Otto is so curious about what’s inside the shell, that he lets go of his Mum’s hand and he realises he is just fine!

Why I love it:

This book really does remind me of my son. He is always happiest when he is with his family – the closer the better – and I know he has reservations about ‘letting go’. As soon as we finished reading this book he said to me: ‘I didn’t want to let go of your hand at kinder.” So he totally got the connection between himself and Otto and we were able to have a great conversation about the year ahead.

The back page of the book has a list of questions and activities you can do with your child after reading – it’s great.

I also love otters and the way they do actually hold hands while they sleep. What’s not to love about that little animal fact?!

Themes to discuss with your child:

  • Security
  • Feeling afraid
  • Family
  • Trust
  • Being brave
  • Curiosity
  • Taking risks and letting go

Questions to ask your child:

Before reading:
  • What do you think this book might be about?
  • Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
  • Have you heard of ‘otters’ before? What kind of animal are they?
  • What do you think is the relationship between the three otters pictured on the front cover?
  • How do you think the otter in middle, is feeling? What makes you think this?
  • There are two people listed as the authors/illustrators of this book; how do we know the two people are related to one another?
  • Look on the back cover; from just looking at this picture, what can you tell me about otters?
After reading:
  • Did you enjoy this book? Why/Why not?
  • Can you relate to the way Otto felt? Tell me about it.
  • How do you think his mother felt each day when Otto wouldn’t let go?
  • Do you think Otto had more fun when he was always holding his Mum’s hand or when he started to feel confident enough to play and swim?
  • Otto was so curious about the pearl inside the shell, that he forgot about his fears. Have you ever been really curious about something? Tell me about it.
  • What is one word you could use to describe the expression on Otto’s face when his face is reflected in the pearl?
  • Why do you think Otto still looks forward to night-time?

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