If the Little Engine that Could and The Story of Ferdinand ever came together they would create this book, Otis. Created by Loren Long (who actually has done illustration work for The Little Engine that Could), he brings children the story of a young tractor who befriends a motherless calf. The two enjoy their time on the farm, playing by the mud pond, lounging under the tree, sleeping together in the barn. And Otis the tractor loves his work—until one day a shiny new tractor means that the farmer no longer needs his help. With nothing left to do, he rolls to the field and sits until weeds crawl over his tires. That is, until he hears the cries of his best friend the calf, who has gotten stuck in the mud pond. Now it’s up to one little tractor to save the day!
Many picture books bring the new and the old together, but not often do they pay homage to other classic books. The little calf sits just like Ferdinand the bull under the tree and the tractor has a friendly face like the Steam Shovel owned by Mike Mulligan. Such beloved books are the roots of newer titles today, and Loren Long knows and respects this. While children 3-5 may not notice (or much care), adults very well may and enjoy the memories.
No matter who is doing the reading, everyone will enjoy this book. It’s hard not to fall in love with the adorable face of the calf or feel bad for the poor little tractor when he is no longer needed. Long relies on slightly muted colors to portray his scenes, along with the occasional nonsense words to bring across just the right ideas or emotion, such as the noises that the heroic tractor makes while sleeping. The little calf falls asleep to the sounds of “putt puff puttedy chuff.”
Children will see the power of friendship at work in this book even as they enjoy the story itself. No matter what happens, Otis is there for his calf friend. It’s loyalty that people of all ages can appreciate.