Otis and the Kittens

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Otis and the Kittens Book Poster Image
Brave, caring tractor saves kittens in exciting drama.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Concept of drought and risk of resultant fire. Intro to sophisticated vocabulary such as "sweltering," "engulfed," "suspended," seamlessly woven into text. No fire safety lessons per se, but the book can spur discussion.

Positive Messages

Everyone can pitch in during an emergency. We should help those who are in danger. Quick thinking can save the day, even in dramatic circumstances. Friends don't hesitate to help friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Otis is heroic and saves the cat and kittens. His friends also put themselves at risk to save Otis. Everyone pitches in in the emergency. The animals use the skills they've developed while playing to save their friend. The firefighters are softhearted and adopt the now-homeless kittens.

Violence & Scariness

The pictures of the fire are graphic. Otis is clearly in danger. Flames engulf the barn. The drought itself is somewhat scary.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Otis and the Kittens, the seventh Loren Long picture book in the popular Otis the tractor series, delivers up a story with cute kittens, firefighting, bravery, and friendship. Long, who was the pick to illustrate President Obama's kids' book, Of Thee I Sing, is a celebrated picture book artist, and his Otis books about an antique tractor have a satisfyingly old-fashioned, classic feel. This one also has a contemporary problem: The farm is parched from drought, and a fire breaks out. Otis rushes into the burning barn to save a litter of kittens, his farm animal friends rush in to save him, and the scenes with the fire are dramatically graphic. Parents can talk with kids about fire safety and the inadvisability of actually running into a fire, so this book may be most appropriate for the older end of the picture book crowd -- those developmentally ready to distinguish fictional derring-do.

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What's the story?

In OTIS AND THE KITTENS, Otis' farm is dangerously dry from lack of rain. One afternoon, after playing tug-of-war with his farm animal friends, Otis spies an orange tabby cat run toward the barn and notices a plume of smoke. The barn is burning! Otis rushes into the barn to save the cat, sees a litter of kittens, and delivers all safely outside. But when the mother cat is still agitated, Otis realizes there's one kitten left inside. He returns to the burning barn and saves the kitten but falls through the buckling flooring himself. As the fire rages above him, the fire truck arrives, but the creek's too dry for them to draw water. His animal friends rush to the rescue, grab a rope, and use their tug-of-war skills to pull Otis up to safety.

Is it any good?

Kids can get their cute kitten fix delivered with an exciting dash of firefighting in Loren Long's newest picture book about Otis, everybody's favorite tractor. Otis and the Kittens involves a raging barn fire caused by drought, which lends a level of drama and provides an opportunity for dashing heroism not always seen in picture books.

Otis and the Kittens is action-packed, and the grab bag of kid-pleasing elements make it a good choice for readers who love books about trucks and vehicles but are old enough to understand the actual rules of fire safety.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can use Otis and the Kittens to talk about fire safety. If you detect fire, what should you do? How can you avoid smoke inhalation? Does your family have an emergency plan?

  • Otis is a tractor in a story; should real people run into a burning room or building?

  • Have you read the other Otis books? How does this one compare? Which is your favorite? Why?

Book details

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