Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Otis and the Scarecrow': Delightful Picture Book for Very Young Readers

I'm always happy to see a book for young readers that teaches a valuable lesson, and  Loren Long's "Otis and the Scarecrow" (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (U.S.A), 40 pages, written and illustrated by Long, $17.99) accomplishes this goal with aplomb.

It's big, square-format book that's perfect for solo readers ages 3 to 5 and for adults reading aloud. It's the sixth entry in Long's Otis the friendly farm tractor series. Growing up on a Michigan farm, I never thought of our three tractors as particularly friendly, but Long transforms these mechanical workhorses into a lovable creature called Otis.

From the publisher:

"On the farm where Otis the tractor lives, the farmer has introduced someone new — a scarecrow to shoo away the pesky crows. But when Otis and the animals greet the scarecrow with friendly smiles, the scarecrow’s frown never leaves his face. So everyone leaves him alone.

"Then one day, when a cold autumn rain sets in, Otis and the animals snuggle close and play Otis’s favorite game: the quiet game. Otis knows the puppy and ducks can’t sit still for long, and soon the farm friends begin to giggle and squirm, feeling warmed by one another’s friendship . . . but on this day, Otis can't seem to take his eyes off the lonely figure in the cornfield.

"A deeply resonant book about subtle acts of compassion and standing up for others, featuring everyone's favorite tractor, Otis."

A story featuring a big-hearted, compassionate tractor like Otis is a  good a way of teaching young children about the values that humans so often don't practice. In an age where bullying -- particularly via electronic devices and "social" websites -- has become all too common by even very young children, the lesson that Otis teaches the other farm creatures -- and by extension -- readers of this book,  is particularly valuable.

About the author

Loren Long (born 1964 in Joplin, MO) has putt puff puttedy chuffed his way all over the bestseller lists with such titles as OtisOtis and the TornadoOtis and the Puppy ,Drummer BoyThe Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, Toy Boat by Randall de Sève, Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna, and Of Thee I Sing by President Barack Obama.

A graduate of the University of Kentucky (BA graphic design) Loren lives in a suburb of Cincinnati with his wife and two sons, all frequent visitors to his studio, where they see the art and hear the stories first.

His websites:, and