Otter revel in children’s book adventure with message

Watercolourist Jane Smith illustrated and wrote her first book, Mr Otter and the River.


Watercolourist Jane Smith illustrated and wrote her first book, Mr Otter and the River.

An artist from Nelson has written a picture book that features animals to explore their own world and real world problems.

Mr Otter and the River is a 32 page photo for young children.

The picture book was written and illustrated by Tasmanian illustrator and watercolorist Jane Smith. This is Smith’s first book.

The picture book explores the life of Mr. Otter and his friends, a squirrel and a hedgehog. The three of them live by a river, in a “very calm” setting.

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The arts are proving to be a powerful tool in helping Kiwis get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

But their peaceful life is disrupted by loud beavers, then by a flood.

Smith said one of the themes of the book is climate change, with a river overflowing something that many children will experience in their lifetimes.

Another theme is not to mistreat people because they are different. Beavers have European accents, and Mr. Otter guesses he’s going to have to say “what’s up” in the valley. Instead, he ends up depending on their hospitality.

“It’s about not taking people at face value.”

Mr Otter and the River was inspired by Smith's childhood in the south of England.


Mr Otter and the River was inspired by Smith’s childhood in the south of England.

The book can either be read by a five-year-old or be read by an eight to ten-year-old, Smith said.

The artist was inspired by his education in the south of England. The area where she grew up had otters, and conservationists recently reintroduced the animals to the area.

Smith arrived in New Zealand in 2002 with her husband. They left behind fast paced corporate jobs in London for a slower pace of life.

Smith is a full-time illustrator and graphic designer, and is also known for her watercolors of the Tasman area.

The idea of Monsieur Otter and the river came from Smith’s brother, who told her she should paint a picture book with animals, and gave her the outline of the story.

Smith said the project was perfect for her as she adores animals. During the lockdown, she thought she might as well illustrate something she liked.

Jane Smith will launch her book Mr Otter and the River at the Wall To Wall Gallery on Bridge St on October 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. She will sell prints of interior artwork from the book and exhibit there for a month. You can buy Mr Otter and the River here.


Artist Nelson Sean Garwood with the painting he produced following his trip to Antarctica. The painting is from Shackleton’s Hut on Cape Royds. (First published August 2017)

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