Twister Time: Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long
LIFE WAS CALM ON THE FARM WHERE THE FRIENDLY LITTLE TRACTOR NAMED OTIS LIVED.
IT WAS SUMMER. THE SUN SHINED BRIGHT, THE BIRDS CHIRPED, AND AFTER ALL THE WORK WAS DONE, OTIS AND HIS FRIEND THE LITTLE CALF LIKED TO PLAY.
It is a pastoral paradise for Otis. He loves to do his daily work, and when quitting time on the farm comes around each afternoon, he and his friend chase each other around the meadow to the sound of Otis' cozy putt, puffety chuff. And when the two tire of play, they just sit quietly under a shady tree on the hillside overlooking Mud Pond. Little Calf is his best friend, but Otis is friends with all the farm animals and everyone gets along happily.
All except for one--the huge bull over the hill.
THE BULL WAS NOBODY'S FRIEND.
HE WAS KEPT IN A PEN IN A PASTURE ALL BY HIMSELF.
Snorting and snarling and trampling the field daisies beneath his feet, the bull is the bully of the farm, and none of the animals even venture near his pen. Even gentle Otis' friendly gestures are met with flared nostrils and a riveting roar, so frightful that even the gregarious Otis decides to give him a wide berth.
Then one day dark clouds roll in from the west, obscuring the summer sun, and Otis knows something is very wrong.
THERE WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THE FARM THAT OTIS COULD FEEL IN HIS PIPES.
IT WAS COMPLETELY STILL. THE ONLY SOUND OTIS HEARD
WAS THE FARMER SHOUTING, "IT'S A TORNADO! IT'S COMING FAST! GET DOWN IN THE CELLAR!"
There's no time for the farmer's family to get the livestock to safety, but Otis knows just what to do. Quickly he unlatches the pasture gate and herds all his friends, even the geese, over the hill, past Mud Pond, and down under the banks of Mud Creek, the lowest part of the whole farm where they can be safe. Otis chuffs a sign of relief. Everyone is saved.
But, no! Otis hears a plaintive roar. It's the bull, still locked in his pen right out in the open, and even his strength can't break that sturdy gate. Otis knows that he is the only one who can help, the only one with the power to free the bull to find shelter with the rest of the animals.
It's a cliffhanger as Otis races through the approaching storm, flattens the gate with his powerful reverse gear, and frees his former foe.
OTIS SHOOK HIMSELF, GAVE THE BULL A FRIENDLY CHUFF, AND PEELED OUT.
THE TORNADO ROARED LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN. OTIS AND THE BULL DIVED FOR COVER INTO MUD CREEK.
THE TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN, NARROWLY MISSING THEM ALL.
It's Otis the hero once more in Loren Long's latest tractor tale, Otis and the Tornado (Philomel, 2011). As in his 2009 best-seller, Otis, his text and retro-style illustrations evoke the nostalgic mood of such anthropomorphic mechanical heroes as Hardie Gramatky's Little Toot and Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, proving that this cozy, comforting story with all its stormy suspense has the right stuff to reassure modern kids that the powers that be are there to take care of things when the going gets rough. The evergreen story of the machine imbued with the virtues of the human heart--empathy and courage--is still a good one to hear, then and now.