Blog Tour with Review and Guest Post!: When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt


When Otis Courted Mama  cover

When Otis Courted Mama
Author: Kathi Appelt
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry
Published: January 6, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell’s life is mostly wonderful. He knows he’s loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that’s okay—Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a grrr form in his throat. Otis can’t make jalapeño flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell’s daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say “Adiós, Otis.” But what will happen if she doesn’t?

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On a recent Top Ten Tuesday post, I wrote that I would love to see more picture books about different kinds of families. A week later, I found this gem. I absolutely adored Cardell the coyote and think kids will identify with his spunk. Cardell isn’t thrilled when his mother begins dating a new man, and he suspects Otis (the new guy) will be gone quickly, just like the others. This is a great resource to teach kids about accepting and adjusting to life with a new stepparent. I would also use it to teach setting and creative writing–the Southwest flavor adds a beautiful sense of culture that spices up both the text on the page and the illustrations. There is much to discuss with this book, and I think it would make a great read-aloud. I had a lot of fun reading it to my son.

Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki said it so well! This is a book that was needed, and it is a good one at that. Too often, a lack of empathy occurs because one person doesn’t understand the other. I love picture books that help kids understand other people’s situations (but without being preachy), and this book does just that; however, it is also a very universal picture book because it shows a kid having to deal with a new situation. At one point or another, everyone must face the unknown or something s/he dislikes, and that is exactly what Cardell is going through.

This book will become a favorite read aloud for classroom teachers! Cardell’s voice rings true, and it will be so much fun to read aloud. I really loved Kathi Appelt’s writing as well. Her use of descriptive words is spot on and would be a great mentor text for imagery. Teachers could also discuss how her words were translated into illustrations.

Teaching Materials: Curriculum guide and Activities

Bonus!: Find a full-color door hanger and other fun downloadables at

Discussion Questions: Do you think Cardell treated Otis fairly?; What are some of the different types of families in our world? What makes your family different?; How do you treat new people you meet?

Book Trailer: 

Read This if You Loved: ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs, Donovan’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman, The Family Book by Todd Parr, And Tango Makes Three by Justin RichardsonTwo Cool Coyotes by Jillian Lund, Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble, A Tale of Two Daddies and A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Kathi Appelt photo

Guest Post by Kathi Appelt

When I was in the fifth grade, my parents got divorced. It wasn’t a sudden thing, but it was a sad thing. We went from a whole family to a broken family. Moreover, my father left us—my mom and my two younger sisters and me—to start a brand new family. All at once, I had a stepmother and two stepbrothers, not to mention step-grandparents, step cousins, step uncles and aunts. Lots of steps. It was confusing.

The thing is, whenever life got to be too much, I could duck into the pages of a book and find some refuge there. It’s always been that way for me.

But in that tumultuous time, when my family was becoming something that seemed both smaller and larger, I could really have used a book that gave me some faith that life would eventually be “mostly wonderful.” I could have used a book that had non-antagonistic stepparents. There were—and still are—few picture books that celebrate step families, a notable exception being When We Married Gary, by Anna Grossnickle Hines.

In fact, for the most part, stepparents in children’s literature, are fairly villainous. (I’m reminded of the evil stepmother in Cinderella). In reality, I know that there are many stepparents in the world who are doing their best, and who are making a positive difference in the lives of their stepchildren. I had the great fortune of having George. He came into my mother’s life like a breath of fresh air. And he had the courage to marry her when my sisters and I were sixteen, fourteen, and thirteen. Imagine marrying someone who had three teenagers!

Looking back, I believe that the best thing about George was his ability to spin a yarn. He was a master at telling tales. In a matter of minutes, he’d have all of us laughing right out loud. And that felt perfectly wonderful.

So, when it comes to using my book in classrooms, I have four main hopes for it:

(1) that it can be used to feature an all-too-common modern family—divided, but working it all out; (2) that it honestly portrays a youngster who is having to make adjustments; (3) that it can serve as a way to talk about jealousy and other mixed emotions; and finally (4) with its Southwestern flora and fauna and landscape, that it can just be plain fun to read out loud. That last is my biggest hope.

And if it can offer up a character who is not a stereotype of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, that will just be a bonus.

Kathi Appelt guest post - George, Kathi, Jacob

Photo of George, Kathi’s stepfather

(He’s with Kathi and her oldest child, Jacob, on his first birthday.)

About the Author: Kathi Appelt’s perfectly wonderful stepfather was a terrific storyteller, and she grew up to become a teller of stories, too. She is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her picture books include Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, and the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard. Her novels for older readers include two National Book Award finalists: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath, which was also a Newbery Honor Book. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To download a free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guide, visit Kathi’s website at

Follow sweet Cardell on all of the tour stops!
Blog URL
Mon, Jan 5
5 Minutes for Books
Tues, Jan 6
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Jan 7
Thurs, Jan 8
Unleashing Readers
Fri, Jan 9
Once Upon a Story
Sat, Jan 10
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 12
Geo Librarian
Tues, Jan 13
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog AND NC Teacher Stuff
Wed, Jan 14
Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Jan 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 16
The Fourth Musketeer


**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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