Prather’s Pick: A book about Otis the tractor
Diane Prather/For Craig Press
Children love books about Otis, a red tractor with big headlight eyes. “Otis and the Kittens,” this week’s picture book is especially heartwarming. The book was written by Loren Long, bestselling author of several Otis books and other titles for children.
As the reader opens the book, the first things he/she finds are silver pages with a dedication message: “For the brave who run toward danger instead of away.” The book is an “ode” to the bravery of firefighters and other brave individuals who sometimes help them out. ( In this book the brave individuals are a bunch of farm animals.)
The book begins one hot summer day on a farm. It is so dry that there isn’t much water, the ground is hard, and the cornstalks aren’t nearly as tall as they would normally be. A bunch of farmhands are out in the field baling straw and loading the bales. Otis is pulling a wagon that’s being loaded with straw bales. When it’s loaded, Otis pulls the wagon to a barn by Mud Creek.
In the barn, the farmhands pull the bales up in the loft with a pully. The reader will notice a tabby cat that’s sitting on top of some already-stacked bales.
After a long, hot day, Otis often plays games with his farm friends. A big red bull enjoys challenging Otis to a tug-of-war. One end of a rope is tied to the bull’s horn; the other end is looped Otis’ steering wheel. Ducks, a horse, cow and calf, and dog participate in the game.
Another day Otis and the animals are enjoying a rest in the shade of an apple tree. The tree is on a hill overlooking the barn. First Otis notices a tabby cat running in the direction of the barn. Then he notices something really frightening—smoke coming from the barn. The little red tractor’s engine even sputters.
Otis and the animals race to the barn. Now the tabby cat is sitting in a barn window. Otis doesn’t waste any time. He races into the barn to find the straw bales on fire. The cat is running back and forth on a rafter. Otis tries to coax her down, but then he notices what is bothering her. Five furry kittens peer down from the hayloft.
Otis stands up on his hind wheels and stretches up toward the loft. One by one the kittens hop down from the loft and onto Otis. He hurries out of the barn with the kittens. The mama cat follows. But she knows that there is still one kitten in the barn.
Otis finds the kitten and gets it to safety, but then the barn’s floor collapses and Otis falls below.
The fire department arrives, but there is no water in Muddy Creek to fight the fire. They decide to let the barn burn.
They have no idea that Otis is still inside.
This charming picture book is published by Philomel Books (2016). The hardcover book costs $17.99. (It would make a great Easter book.) You can also find the book in the children’s room at the Craig Moffat County Library.