It's the second day of Picture Book Month and today I'm thinking about time travel. One of the biggest benefits of reading with young kids is that as adults we get very few opportunities to revisit our childhoods. Sure we can put toys up in our cubicle and be first in line to every Pixar movie. But these types of activities usually happen with one (or both) of our feet still squarely in the adult world, sadly. It's very hard to shut off your adult mind and be purely childlike
But reading with a child -- ah, that's a different matter entirely! When we read picture books we experience the joys of reading in both present and past tense. Not only are we living the experience with our little ones, we're also stepping back in time to our own growing-up years. And, in a beautiful stroke of synchronicity, we're making memories our kids will revisit later in life.
Today's pick for our 30 Days of Picture Books series is Otis by author/illustrator Loren Long. If you know this book, you'll understand why it hearkens back to another time, and if you don't, I suggest you seek it out immediately. (Really. I mean it.)
Long's crafted a slice of nostalgia in this book, one of our family favorites. Otis is a small red tractor who loves his life on the farm, especially playing games like ring-around-the-rosy with his friend the little calf and the other farm animals. One day the farmer comes into the barn with a big brand-new tractor and displaces Otis entirely. Otis is very sad, and not even the little calf can cheer him up. And then the little calf herself goes missing, and when she turns up, she's stuck deep in Mud Pond. The farmer tries everything to rescue her but only one person has the gentle touch needed to coax the calf out of the pond - and Otis has his place once more.
I can't even begin to do the illustrations in this book justice, but let me tell you that they are, in a word, unforgettable, reminiscent of classic works like Lentil or The Story of Ferdinand (which Long mines for inspiration in the sequel also). It says something that sometimes when we're done reading, Sprout will just leaf through the pages on his own, drinking in the images. Otis is cheerily red with a retro design, while the new tractor is glisteningly modern with sick-making yellow paint. And when I say that Otis leaps off the page - well, you'll have to see for yourself, but trust me, it's like Loren Long captured the spirit of a three-year-old boy in the form of a vintage tractor. You just can't help but grin.
We love Otis, both in this first offering and in Long's equally excellent sequel, Otis and the Tornado. Putt puff puttedy chuff!
Otis by Loren Long, published by Philomel Books