Prather's Pick: 'An Otis Christmas' is a heartwarming Christmas tale

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Awhile back, this column reviewed “Otis and the Tornado,” a picture book written by Loren Long. Librarians tell me that the books about Otis are popular with children. Up until now, there have been three Otis books: “Otis,” “Otis and the Tornado,” and “Otis and the Puppy.” Now, just in time for the holidays, Long has published yet another book: “An Otis Christmas.” It’s this week’s featured book.

photo

Diane Prather

Otis is a red- and cream-colored tractor with headlight eyes, a metal nose and a big smile. He lives on a farm with a bunch of animals, including a little brown calf. She and Otis are best friends.

The reader opens the book to find Otis, the brown calf and a little dog heading up a snowy hill. There is a lot of snow, and the reader can trace their tracks from the barn to the top of a hill. A big red and white bull is standing in front of the barn. (Otis readers will recognize him from “Otis and the Tornado.”)

Otis and his friends are heading to the place on the hill where the farmer and one of his helpers are decorating an evergreen tree, an annual event, because Christmas is nearly here.

This is a particularly special Christmas because one of the horses is expecting a foal. Nobody is more excited than Otis.

Finally, Christmas Eve arrives. The farmer fills a trough with the animals’ traditional Christmas meal of hot bran mash, chopped apples and brown sugar. The animals share the treat, some of them standing on tiptoes to reach the food.

Otis can’t eat mash, apples and brown sugar, but the farmer has a gift for him, too, He pulls out a package that’s wrapped with a red bow and “Otis” written on the side. The farmer opens the box and takes out a shiny new horn. Otis is delighted because he has admired a horn on the truck.

The farmer fastens the horn on top of the little tractor. Then he leaves for the house. Otis and the animals are snug in the barn. A big snow is in the forecast.

Otis is happy, and he goes to sleep, but after awhile he hears sounds coming from the mother horse’s stall. The farmer is there with one of his helpers. Something is wrong.

The farmer says that they need Doc Baker. He adds that without the veterinarian, they’ll “lose them both.”

One of the helpers goes out into the storm. He tries to maneuver the pickup through the snow, but it’s so deep that the truck just gets stuck in a big drift.

Otis knows where Doc Baker lives, and he knows a shortcut to the veterinarian’s house, too. Although the snow is up to the little tractor’s “chin,” Otis keeps right on going.

“Putt puff puffedy chuff”, he goes over a frozen river, across a meadow and up a snowy hill. The problem is that he goes up the wrong hill, and the way down is … oh, my!

Will Otis find his way to Doc Baker’s house? And what about the little foal? There’s a surprise at the end of the book.

“An Otis Christmas” is published by Philomel Books, an Imprint of the Penguin Group (2013). The book costs about $17.99 in hardcover. Loren Long is No. 1 on The New York Times bestselling author list.

This is a heartwarming Christmas book!

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