by Eric Rohmann

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Otho was born with a pumpkin for a head. And despite what one might think, he was not seen as a curiosity by his family.So begins this brilliantly droll tale of a very unusual boy. Otho loses his pumpkin head–quite literally–when a bat decides it would make a good home. And despite what one might think, this is not the end for Otho, but the beginning of a


Otho was born with a pumpkin for a head. And despite what one might think, he was not seen as a curiosity by his family.So begins this brilliantly droll tale of a very unusual boy. Otho loses his pumpkin head–quite literally–when a bat decides it would make a good home. And despite what one might think, this is not the end for Otho, but the beginning of a great adventure. Is Otho’s story a parable? A cautionary tale? A celebration of the individual? A head trip? That is something each reader (and Otho) will have to decide. . . . .

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In this story of love, disaster and astonishing good luck, Eric Rohmann twines threads from folklore, popular culture, printmaking and the book arts. He's a storyteller and artist who understands his form -- the picture book -- very well indeed. The art features bold black lines, like the pictures in Rohmann's My Friend Rabbit, which won the 2003 Caldecott Medal, with a simple palette of sapphire blue, light blue and, of course, pumpkin orange. Most of the pictures are small, surrounded by white margins. Where he varies the format it's for dramatic effect, as when an ambitious bat, supposing he would like to live in Otho's head, flies right out of the boundary of the picture with the amazed pumpkin head in its claws, leaving the boy's body behind. — Susan Marie Swanson
Publishers Weekly
Rohmann reprises the spacious block-print style of his Caldecott Medal-winning My Friend Rabbit in this quirky tale of a boy with a round pumpkin for a head. Like Stuart Little, Otho looks peculiar among his human family, but an affectionate snapshot shows that his parents accept him. While tossing a ball outside, he gets into trouble with a black bat who "thought Otho's head would make a fine place to live." The bat swoops down and swipes Otho's head. The absurdity continues as the head falls into the ocean (Otho squeezes his oval eyes shut before splashdown), gets swallowed by a fish and ends up at a seafood market. Otho wears a benign, apprehensive smile until his mother comes along ("after some spirited dickering, she bought Otho's head and a half-pound of mackerel") and rejoins him with his body. Given the bat and pumpkin, this could be a Halloween read, but mild Otho is neither spooky nor fierce. The surreal story primarily affords Rohmann the chance to experiment with design. The square book cover frames a charming, die-cut portrait of Otho; inside, dynamic thick black outlines border the pared-down but energetic relief prints. Rohmann places high-contrast black details in expansive white space, and complements the orange of Otho's head with soft shades of blue. The wry tone and theme places this alongside his more sophisticated The Cinder-Eyed Cats and Time Flies. Ages 5-9. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Otho is a boy born with a pumpkin for a head. His family accepts this and Otho goes on his way much like a normal boy. That is, until a bat decides his pumpkin head would make an excellent nest and plucks it off Otho's body. However, pumpkin heads are apparently heavier than they look and he is unceremoniously dropped into the sea, where he is eaten by a great fish, squeezed out of the fish by a great squid, caught by a fisherman and returned to his family through the great luck of his mother finding him at the fish market. A strange tale that's strangely unappealing, some small children may be distressed by the bat's easy removal of Otho's head from his body. Rohmann's unusual artwork lends some appeal to the story, easily capturing a small boy's expressions on a pumpkin face. Primarily colored in black, white and blue with splashes of orange on Otho's head, the pictures are easily more entertaining than the story. 2003, Alfred A Knopf, Ages 5 to 8.
— Sharon Oliver
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A perfect blend of art and text works together to convey the adventures of a boy born "with a pumpkin for a head." A crafty flying bat plucks up Otho's head and explains in rhyme why he drops it into the sea. After a large fish swallows it, an even larger squid squeezes the fish, with Otho shooting out, "like a cork from a popgun." In excellent pacing, the next page shows the pumpkin-head hero drifting at sea, then scooped up by a fisherman. Young children are sure to enjoy the bouncing rhythm of the fisherman's words as he compares Otho to all the other types of fish he has netted. Besides black and white, Rohmann consistently uses shades of blue and patches of orange throughout. In this artwork, less is truly more. The multiple-color relief prints done on an etching press, with large white space surrounding smaller, movie-still-like pictures, enhance the visual appeal. In Otho's face, Rohmann captures the vulnerable emotions of a lost child, and the wide smiles when returning to a mother's embrace. Gather your little pumpkin heads close to you in the fall as you read them this tale and watch their faces light up with a glowing grin.-James K. Irwin, Poplar Creek Main Library, Steamwood, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Creating thick-lined color woodcuts even simpler than the Caldecott-winning art of My Friend Rabbit (2002), Rohmann follows an unusual lad-or part of him, anyway-on an adventure-filled odyssey. Young Otho is normal enough, except that he was born with a pumpkin for a head. One day while out playing, his noggin is snatched away by a bat, who eventually drops it into the ocean, where it's swallowed, then spit up, by a fish, netted by a fisherman, and purchased at last by Otho's mother. She reattaches it to his body (which had been kept safe "in a cool, dry place"), and gently warns him to be more careful in the future, for "you know the world will always be more difficult for a boy with a pumpkin for a head." Maybe Otho could get some pointers from Arthur Yorinks's It Happened in Pinsk (1983). Decidedly offbeat, but Rohmann is plainly having as much fun as readers will as they watch Otho's expression change as he rolls helplessly from one hazard to the next. (Picture book. 7-9)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Library Edition
Product dimensions:
7.82(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Eric Rohmann is a painter, printmaker, and fine bookmaker whose work both explores and generates the heady excitement of an imagination unleashed. His first book for young readers, Time Flies, received a Caldecott Honor Award.

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