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Otis Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 2—Otis is a fun-loving tractor who roams the fields after a hard day's work and plays in the haystacks. In the barn one night, his engine provides a gentle purr that helps a frightened young calf fall into a peaceful sleep. The two become inseparable. That is, until the farmer decides to upgrade and brings home a brand-new, shiny yellow tractor and relegates Otis to the weeds behind the building. Having outlived his usefulness, Otis just sits there, impervious to the calf's call to play. But when his friend gets stuck in Mud Pond and no one—not even the fire department—can pull her out, the feisty tractor revs his engine ("putt puff puttedy chuff") and saves the day. His heroism and concern for a friend are themes that will appeal to young readers. Long's gouache and pencil artwork is stunning with a red and cream main character against a sepia-toned monochromatic background. The overall effect is nostalgic and comforting as readers bond with the determined little tractor. In the end, Otis finds a place on the farm where his engine's soft purr can be put to good use. This satisfying conclusion that speaks of a place for everyone is sure to ring true to children.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA END
**JUMPSTART'S 2013 READ FOR THE RECORD SELECTION!**
Top customer reviews
Recalling his own childhood love for some classic picture books, Loren Long pays homage to the work of Robert Lawson and Virginia Lee Burton in OTIS.
OTIS is the story of a boisterous and dependable little red tractor who (as was Mary Anne the steam shovel), is facing being replaced, and the young calf (visually reminiscent of the young Ferdinand) who comes to live at the farm and is comforted at night by the "soft putt puff puttedy chuff" that emanates from Otis's stall.
Young readers will readily recognize a whole series of positive emotions depicted on the face of Otis as he works, plays, sleeps, teaches the calf to do a "hand"stand, and sits contemplatively under the tree on the hill (total shades of Ferdinand) alongside his young friend. Then there are the equally-clear expressions of negative feelings that well up when the new-and-improved giant tractor suddenly invades Otis's farm.
Otis is unmercifully banished from his stall and consigned to a patch of weeds behind the barn. But when the calf accidentally gets herself stuck in Mud Pond (with an attendant cast of characters reminiscent of the crowd that observes Mary Anne digging the cellar for the new town hall), there is only one person...err...faithful friend and personified machine...who knows how to help the calf get herself unstuck.
As with the cover art, Loren Long's illustrations throughout the first part of OTIS are soothing, being dominated by gentle browns, creams, and the deep cherry red of the little tractor. In sharp contrast, the new tractor is a glaring and intrusive shade of yellow with sharp lines and a visage that gives off no hint of humanity inside.
Fortunately, the calf's rescue causes Otis to once again be recognized as being of value. He is assigned a series of satisfying tasks around the farm and, having thus regained a good measure of contentment through being productive, "at the end of the day, Otis would just sit with his friend under the apple tree and watch the farm below."
What makes OTIS extra-special is that on top of there being such a great interplay of text and illustration, on top of Loren Long's great use of figurative language and visual allusion, and on top of the important intergenerational theme, there is a high level of action and hijinx in the text and illustrations -- call it a "gross motor" book -- that will enthuse the most demanding members of any young audience.
I'm just hoping that they are considering printing up some Otis teeshirts for those of us who are totally in love with this crazy little tractor dude and his bovine sidekick.