Otis And The Puppy ($17.99, Philomel, ages 3-7), by #1 New York Times Bestselling author/illustrator Loren Long, is going to win a lot of new fans who were not previously familiar with the engaging red farm tractor. The seeds of popularity were sown with two previous titles, Otis and Otis And The Tornado so it’s wonderful for children to have a new addition to this vibrant, lovingly rendered series.
After reading Otis And The Puppy I am fondly reminded of Benedict Blathwayt’s Little Red Train books featuring Duffy Driver. At age five, my son was obsessed with these tales of an anthropomorphic train whose exploits were both entertaining and upbeat. While Long’s artwork with its retro look is certainly different than Blathwayt’s, the themes the stories explore – friendship, loyalty, and perseverance – are the same which is why they resonate with readers.
With Otis books children not only get a benevolent tractor character but a whole bunch of other friendly farm animals to boot. We’re instantly drawn into the story with Otis playing hide-and-seek with his pals after the workday has ended. He discovers them in the most humorous positions guaranteed to get lots of giggles! But what happens one evening when the farmer introduces a new member to the group? A precious, affectionate puppy is welcomed by all. The trouble is that he’s put in a dog house on his own, away from his new friends, and he’s also afraid of the dark. Otis hears him whimpering and brings him into the barn so he can curl up and fall asleep in the comfort of the tractor’s seat.
One day during another round of hide-and-seek, the puppy wanders off into the woods as he follows a butterfly. It soon gets dark and no one can find the puppy, not even the farmer. Although the search is called off until morning, Otis feels he must fight his own fears and foray into the dark forest to find his friend. Of course, despite the darkness and nighttime noises all around, a determined red tractor is not going to give up. It sure helps to have some headlights! Otis counts … “one-putt, two-puff, three-puttedy four chuff” and is delighted when he tracks down his puppy pal. And so are the readers who will feel empowered by Otis’s tale of courage and caring. What a beautiful way to end a busy child’s day – with thoughts of Otis and Puppy dashing around happily in their heads.
-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel.