With the effortless touch of a true master, Ungerer takes the coziest symbol of childhood—the teddy bear—and transforms it into a battered but proud emblem of the perseverance of innocents. Receiving its first English publication (it was published in French in 1999), the book begins with Otto looking ragged on a shelf: “I knew I was old when I found myself on display in the window of an antique store.” Then it’s back to 1930s Germany and the agony of birth: a workshop sewer attaching Otto’s button eyes. Soon Otto is gifted to David, and the two spend many a happy day pulling pranks with David’s pal, Oskar. But that yellow star David wears—with pride, you can tell by the line of his back—foreshadows decades of turmoil: Otto passed off to Oskar when David is trucked away; Otto used by a solider to stem a bloody wound; Otto’s subsequent fame, abduction, and garbage-can salvation. It’s potent material. And the battlefield spread is scary—dead soldiers, an arm poking from the rubble. Ungerer plays it straight with his watercolors, rarely accentuating, but never pulling back, either. Even the ending, in which Otto’s original owner finds him, is subdued, with Otto finally taking his place at a typewriter, writing this story, and stating, with characteristic nonchalance, “Here it is.” Grades 1-3.