August 10, 2016


by Esmé Shapiro
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
July 2016

Looks like foxes are the newest thing in children’s picture book characters and, though Esmé Shapiro has made Ooko a darling of a fox, he/she could be any creature, human or otherwise, who just wants a friend (though Ooko is incredibly lovable!)

In simple statements, Ooko takes stock of all he has: a stick, a leaf, a rock.  But he doesn’t have a friend with whom he can play.  So, Ooko goes looking: in a hole, in a tree, under a moose.  When he witnesses another four-legged creature playing with a furless, two-legged one called a Debbie, he comes to the revelation that he needs a Debbie too!  

But all the Debbies around seem to be enamoured with their own “foxes” and pay him no heed, even when he tries to emulate all the attributes he is convinced make them so lovable.  That is, until a Debbie who is missing her eyeglasses mistakenly grabs Ooko and “plays” with him as she would her true pet.  
From Ooko by Esmé Shapiro

Only when he meets a raccoon who wants to be his friend does Ooko accept himself as he is, not how he believes others want him to be.

Esmé Shapiro’s story is sweet and quirky with a positive message of self-acceptance and friendship but it’s her illustrations that make Ooko a truly special achievement.  From uniquely-shaped Ooko, with his rotund orange body highlighted by massive and bright eyes to the assorted dogs, bizarrely-coiffured humans and bold and leafy landscapes, Ooko is a fun and imaginative story that celebrates the individuality of friendships.


Check out these Ooko extras:

•  Esmé Shapiro's Ooko book trailer at 

• The Globe and Mail's video of Esmé Shapiro drawing her cute characters at

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