Prather's Pick: Otis and the Tornado

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Otis is a red and tan-colored tractor. He has two big tires behind and a small tire in front. Otis has a tractor seat, a steering wheel and all of the other parts that make tractors run, however, Otis is far from an ordinary tractor. For one thing, his headlights are more like eyes. He has a bolt-like nose and a mouth with a tongue. Besides that, Otis has feelings!

Otis is a red- and tan-colored tractor. He has two big tires behind and a small tire in front. Otis has a tractor seat, a steering wheel and all of the other parts that make tractors run, however, Otis is far from an ordinary tractor.

For one thing, his headlights are more like eyes. He has a bolt-like nose and a mouth with a tongue. Besides that, Otis has feelings!

Otis is the leading character in “Otis and the Tornado,” a children’s book by Loren Long.

Of course, Otis has to work — after all, he is a tractor. But when he has some free time, Otis likes to play with his friends. His best friend is a little brown calf with a white spot in her forehead. He and the calf include the other farm animals in their games, too. Otis, the calf, a horse, a cow and some ducks take turns being the leaders in a follow-the-leader game that takes them up by the apple tree, around the barn, down a rolling hill, past Muddy Pond, beyond the cornfield, across the meadow and finally along the banks of Muddy Creek.

There is one farm animal that isn’t so friendly, though. It’s a huge red and white bull that stays by himself in a pasture with a pen. The other animals have tried to make friends with the bull, but whenever they approach his fence, the bull charges at them. One day Otis brought the bull an apple from the tree on the farm. The bull charged the fence so hard that he bent one of the wooden posts. The bull is cranky, indeed!

One day the weather turns dark. The wind blows and it starts to rain. Then something strange happens. The wind and rain stop. The sky turns a greenish color. Otis senses that this is no ordinary storm.

Otis is right! It isn’t long until he spots a tornado, and it’s headed for the farm! The farmer has noticed the tornado, too, and he hurries his family into the cellar.

The animals are locked in pens at the barn. Otis rushes to the barn. He uses his fender and bolt-like nose to open the pen gates. One by one, he frees the animals.

In follow-the-leader fashion, Otis leads the farm animals along their usual path to Muddy Creek, the lowest part of the farm. This time the animals aren’t playing a game; it’s a matter of life or death. Once they reach the creek bed, the animals crawl down into the mud and huddle together where they are safe.

But just then Otis hears a cry for help. It’s coming from the bull that is locked in his pen. Otis doesn’t think about the bull’s mean temperament. He springs to action. Will Otis get to the bull in time? Will the bull charge Otis?

“Otis and the Tornado” is published by Philomel Books, an imprint of the Penguin Group, copyright 2011. “Otis” was the first book published about this lovable character. Librarians tell me that the Otis books are very popular with young readers.

“Otis and the Tornado” costs about $17.95 in hardcover.

This heartwarming book was written and illustrated by Loren Long. He is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator. He re-illustrated the edition of “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper, “Mr. Peabody’s Apples” by Madonna and “Of Thee I Sing” by President Barack Obama.

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