OTTO GROWS DOWN Goes Out of Print




My debut picture book, Otto Grows Down, was published by Sterling in 2009. I was lucky to be paired with the illustrator, Scott Magoon, a fabulous artist who has gone on to illustrate a bunch of wonderful books, including Spoon, Mostly Monsterly, and Chopsticks. Scott was a delight to work with, and Otto turned into a true collaboration.

Otto may not have won any awards, but it sold well, and it won the hearts and minds of many children and parents across the country. It has been gratifying to hear from parents, booksellers, and librarians that kids adore the story. In her blog post titled “What is Your Kid’s Favorite Book?”, Carissa Rogers wrote:

“I hope I can say this clearly enough. My little boy LOVES this book.
No. That was pathetic. Let me try again.
–He sprinkles this book on his cereal for breakfast.
–He sleeps with it.
–His older sister likes it just as much and often BEGS to read it to him!
–I’m not exaggerating. He would forgo a trip to the park, for an extra reading of Otto Grows Down.
–It travels on vacation with us.

–He plans to name his firstborn child Otto, regardless of gender.”

A college student was so taken with the story that she wrote a song about it and performed her creation on YouTube.

For those who never read the book, it’s the story of a boy who becomes trapped in backward time after making a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born. Like Crashing Eden, the central theme involves guilt and remorse over mistreating a sibling, and the wish to repair the damage.

Both stories probably emerged from my own remorse for having teased and harassed my younger brother. This theme of having harmed a sibling is such an abiding part of my psyche that at times I’ve wondered whether I’m a “womb twin survivor.” That’s someone who started life as a twin but was born alone, perhaps resulting in unconscious survivor guilt. (Yes, I realize that sounds bizarre, but who knows?)

Anyhow, it’s with some sadness that I announce that Otto Grows Down has gone out of print. Yet I take some comfort from Einstein’s belief that the past, present, and future coexist simultaneously, and that “the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” If this is the case, then as Otto bows out he simultaneously arrives, and will exist eternally.

Here’s a poem I wrote that never quite made it into the book:


What Is Time?


What is Time? What is Time?

Can anybody say?

Can you go to sleep tomorrow night

And wake up yesterday?


Will last Tuesday ever come again?

Or next year come round twice?

If summer never went away,

Now wouldn’t that be nice?


What is Time? What is Time?

Have you solved the riddle yet?

Can you stuff Time in your pocket?

Can you catch it with a net?


The Past is now behind us

And the Future’s yet to show.

Let’s celebrate the Present—

It’s the only time we know!




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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 19:54:45

    Oh, Michael, that’s so sad! But Otto will live on in the hearts of the readers he touched — and in new readers who will find their own copies in libraries or their older siblings’ hand-me-down boxes.


  2. Donna Earnhardt
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 21:57:59

    I am so sorry. 🙁 I have heard nothing but good things about your book. I will find it at my local library this summer and share it with my girls. It really does sound wonderful.

    BTW – virtual chocolate heading your way…


  3. Mirka Breen
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 23:37:53

    As one who had her first PB go out of print before it went to print, I can imagine this feels achy. 🙁
    But Otto had a run and may come back. The text is wonderful and the art is also.


  4. Michael
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 23:47:21

    Thanks, Mirka, Donna & Jennifer–I really appreciate your comments. One book is released, another goes out of print. All part of the circle of life!


  5. Lori Alexander
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 12:52:52

    Nooooo! We love Otto here, too. My kids think the line “And going to the bathroom was downright disgusting” is hilarious. And the final bit of dialogue–when Otto would rather grow up with Anna than grow down without her–is one of my absolute PB favorites. Such a clever story! I hope to see more PBs from you in the future 🙂


  6. DianaM
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 15:27:03

    Sorry, Michael! It’s a wonderful, clever book. Time reversal and palindromes too? Who could resist.


  7. Carole Brooks
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 20:52:36

    What a shame! It’s such a great book and was always checked out in my library. And I agree with Lori, the bathroom line is HILARIOUS! The poem is wonderful, too.
    This only means one thing. It’s time to write another pb!
    Carole 🙂


  8. Maurice sussman
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 12:08:39

    I t00 regret the demise of “Otto” which was cleverly written and
    beautifully illustrated.

    About “What is Time”: I searched my memory bank and resurrected
    a poem, ” The Train to Morrow”, written by Jesse Z. Sussman, my
    sainted Father, your Grand Father, that ends with the ticket seller telling
    the prospective ticket buyer that the ‘Train to Morrow had already
    left today”. I hereby accuse you of Generational Plagiarism!


  9. Michael Sussman
    Jun 25, 2012 @ 13:14:36

    Please excuse my father. He’s (relatively) harmless.


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