Tractor Tale: Otis by Loren Long
There was once a friendly little tractor. His name was Otis, and every day Otis and his farmer worked together taking care of the farm they called home. Otis loved to work.
Every night, tired but happy, Otis would puff into the little stall in the barn that was his.
One night when Otis was fast asleep, the farmer brought a beautiful baby calf into the barn. The calf bawled and bawled for her mother, but when the sleepy sound of a soft putt puff puffedy chuff came from the next stall, the scared little calf stopped bawling and drifted off to sleep.
It's a perfect blendship of a friendship, as after work Otis the tractor and the little calf kick up their heels and wheels together until they tire. Then together they sit quietly under the apple tree before they head off to sleep contentedly in their neighboring stalls.
Then one day Progress rears its head, and Otis finds himself exiled to the weedy back of the barn while a brand-new big yellow tractor takes his place in the barn and in the fields. Calf and Otis grieve apart, each missing the other's quiet company in their snug stalls, while Otis rusts and vines overgrow his wheels and gears.
Then disaster strikes. The beautiful little calf gets herself stuck in the pond. The farmhands try pulling her out with a rope. Failing, they call on the big yellow tractor and the big red firetruck, but the little calf only sinks deeper with each effort.
Then the little calf's ears perk up.
Over the hum of the growing crowd, there came a faint sound in the distance.... a soft rhythmic putt puff puffedy chuff and all at once Otis putt puffed from around the barn. He turned and headed straight toward Mud Pond.
Trailing broken vines behind him, it's Otis chuffing along speedily to the rescue. He circles the pond in a version of their favorite game, Ring around the Rosey, and the little calf turns around and around until she suddenly finds herself free and stumbles out of the pond to meet her lost-and-found old friend. Otis is redeemed and soon finds his place again, inspiring the chickens to lay with his gentle chuff and sometimes helping out the big yellow tractor in the fields.
But often at the end of the day, Otis would just sit with his friend under the apple tree and watch the farm below.
In his softly rounded lines and controlled palette, author-illustrator Loren Long reverently evokes the spirit of Virginia Lee Burton, Hardy Gramatsky, and Munro Leaf in his latest and already best-selling story of an unlikely friendship lost and found, Otis (Philomel, 2009), even silhouetting the calf under the tree in Ferdinand's familiar pose. But the theme of a redeeming friendship is evergreen, and this story is surely on its way to becoming one of the classics.