Book Review: Otto: A Palindrama by Jon Agee

Otto: A Palindrama by Jon Agee. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9780803741621. 144pp. Agee gives credit for palindromes by others in the acknowledgements at the end.

Picture book creator Agee’s first graphic novel is told entirely in palindromes — every name, bit of dialogue, and even the words that are part of the scenery read the same backwards and forwards. It’s amazing, and so are Agee’s drawings — he’s one of my favorite illustrators.

Otto loses himself in a bowl of wonton soup during a family dinner and, suddenly on a beach with his parents, he sees something strange. “Was it a rat I saw?” he asks his dad. (It was, carrying two body boards.) Otto follows it across the sand and into a desert where he encounters much more that is strange, including Dr. Awkward, who is napping on a train track: “No panic, I nap on!” After Otto catches a ride back into the city, the signs there are really fun; my favorite palindrome is on one a wise man is holding: “Do geese see god?” It’s all impressively nonsensical and a bit surreal, and of course it ends like it started.


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