Otis and the Kittens

Written and Illustrated by Loren Long Philomel Books, 2016

It was hot and dry on the farm where the friendly little tractor named Otis lived.

The plot in a nutshell: A brave tractor rescues some kittens.

Otis the tractor likes to relax in the barn and play tug-of-war with the bull and his other friends on the farm. One day, he is in the field with the animals when he sees smoke coming from the barn and an orange cat running toward it. Otis bravely runs into the barn after the cat and realizes she has kittens in the hayloft. He carries five kittens from the burning building, but he can tell from the mother cat’s reaction that this isn’t all of them. Otis goes back into the barn to get the last one, who jumps to the floor and runs to safety. Then the floor collapses and Otis falls through. The fire engine arrives, but the dry weather and lack of rain means there’s not enough water to put out the fire. The animals realize Otis is inside and they rush in to help. Working together (and using their tug-of-war skills), they get some rope around the bull and he pulls Otis to safety, with some help from the firemen. Fire Chief Douglas adopts the kittens for the firehouse.

This is the sixth hardcover book that author/illustrator Loren Long has written about Otis the tractor and the first one that I’ve read in the series. I had made the assumption that the character was written for kids who like trucks and big machines, so I’ve passed the books by and now I’m really sorry that I did. This is a book about friendship, courage and taking care of others. It’s dedicated to ‘the brave who run toward danger instead of away’ and it does a wonderful job of showing a situation in which that kind of bravery is important. The story would also be a good starting point for a discussion of fire safety with your kids.

I hope the farm animals get hazard pay!  (Or at least extra oats.)

The gouache and pencil illustrations are wonderful. They have a very Americana style to them, which really works well with the bucolic setting of the story. I love the use of a darker color palette, which really makes the fire seem more intense in contrast. The final picture of Otis, surrounded by the mother cat and kittens that he’s just saved, is a great way to end the story. An illustration from this book was used in the Collecting Inspiration exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum and it was a real treat to meet and speak with Mr. Long at the Inspiration Day event there. I’m glad that it inspired me to pick up this book and I look forward to reading more about Otis and his adventures.


And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s nice to know there are real heroes out there, putting themselves in harm’s way for others.

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