Otto: A Palindrama by Jon Agee

Although Otto is published by Dial Books for Young Readers, I think this “palindromic graphic novel” would be fun for readers of all ages who like wordplay. As others have mentioned, most of the book is a kind of daydream/reverie/fantasy journey, which means the plot doesn’t have to make a ton of sense, but that didn’t bother me: I’m here for the text, which is totally made up of palindromes. At the start of the book we see Otto’s parents in the kitchen; his dad is making soup. When Otto is called to the table his dad tells him to eat (“Nosh, son”) but Otto is entranced by the steam rising from his bowl. We’re transported to a beach scene, where Otto’s dog, Pip, gets lost while chasing another beachgoer. The beach leads to a desert, which leads to a road, which leads to a city, which leads to a cemetery, which leads back to the ocean, which leads back to the dining table—none of which is the point, really. I like Agee’s art, but the palindromes are really the draw. When Otto catches a ride to the city of Grubsburg, all the license plates and signs on trucks and billboards are palindromes—from “Walsh’s Irish Slaw” to “Regal Lager” and “Octet Co” and more. There’s a bookstore where all the covers on display are palindromic, and Otto finds himself at one point in a “Mueseum” (yes, that is a bit of a cheat) that has a “Moore Room” and a “Koons Nook”, all of which I find totally charming.

I found out about this book thanks to Neil Pasricha’s post about the best books he read in 2022, and I’m really delighted to have read it!







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