A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Otis, by Loren Long, is the first in a popular series about a friendly, helpful little tractor. This is a gentle story, but sensitive kids might be anxious during the climactic scene as farmers and firefighters try to save a calf from drowning in mud. All all ends well, of course.
What's the story?
Otis is a little red tractor who loves to both work and play on his farm. When a scared calf arrives in his barn, his soft putt-puffs soothe the new arrival and the two become close companions. They enjoy each other’s company until Otis is replaced by a new tractor, and the dispirited old tractor can’t be budged from his weed-covered resting place. The calf, lonely and sad, one day trudges into a muddy pond and gets stuck, sinking deeper and deeper. The harder everyone works to rescue her, the more the frightened calf sinks. All seems lost until her old friend, roused by her cries, putt-puffs to her aid.
Is it any good?
Otis will feel like an old familiar storybook to parents. Author-illustrator Loren Long acknowledges Virginia Lee Burton (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel) and Robert Lawson (The Story of Ferdinand), and their influence runs deeps here. The subdued palette, strong lines, and soft texture give the book the feel of a classic. The prose flows smoothly and gently, and the illustrations of the cavorting tractor and calf offer plenty of energy and humor.
To his credit, Long doesn’t overdo the arrival of the new tractor: Newer, bigger, and better isn’t necessarily bad, and indeed the yellow tractor continues to be the farmer’s go-to machine. But the farmer and especially Otis learn that growing old doesn’t necessitate being put out to pasture, so to speak.
Lovely, soothing artwork owes a debt to classic children’s books.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with change. How does Otis feel when he’s replaced? How do you think he feels once the farmer realizes how helpful he still can be?
Families can also talk about unlikely friendships, like the Disney tale The Adventures of Milo and Otis and even the classic Charlotte's Web. Why does it often give readers that warm-fuzzy feeling? What other books or movies of unlikely friendships can you think of?
- Author: Loren Long
- Illustrator: Loren Long
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Philomel
- Publication date: September 22, 2009
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: March 4, 2020
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