Monday, October 6, 2014

Picture Book Review - Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long

It's happening, my friends. Slowly but surely, Sprout is turning into a book nut. Squeeeee!

This was particularly evident a few weeks back, when we spent the weekend in Portland for a brief not-quite-ready-for-kindergarten-to-begin getaway. Of course a major stop on our trip was Powell's (really, is it possible to go to Portland and NOT go?), where Sprout proclaimed that "I could just live in this bookstore, Mom!"

By far the best souvenir of the weekend, in his estimation, was the newly published Otis and the Scarecrow, a title I had intended to purchase on the sly and save for the holidays. It was all over, though, once Sprout saw the bookstore display -- and truth be told, neither Hubs nor I could wait either, as we are both huge fans of Loren Long's precocious little red tractor as well. I'm thrilled to say that we've read all of the Otis titles so far, and this one absolutely lives up to the legacy, even throwing in a bit of an ambiguous aspect just to pique young reader's curiosity.

The story is very straightforward, as you might expect from Otis. This time there's a new addition to farm life in the form of a scarecrow, and of course the farm friends are excited to meet this mysterious fellow. But the scarecrow remains aloof and doesn't respond to any of the animals' overtures, so everyone decides to leave him be. As the summer turns into fall, a rainy day sets in, so Otis and the crew gather under the apple tree to play the quiet game. Then Otis notices the scarecrow, all alone in the field, and Otis being Otis, he just can't leave the scarecrow to his loneliness. The result is a lesson in kindness for readers young and old.

It's pretty hard to quantify just how much I love these books. Long has created a character in Otis that resonates with all readers, a set of characters that are timeless and enduring. Sprout is crazy for these books, and for good reason - the stories are thoughtfully told, with perfect pacing and illustrations that a reader can get lost in. (Seriously, they would make great artwork for a nursery - if you could bring yourself to take apart a copy of the book to frame the spreads!) In Otis and the Scarecrow, the outcome is a little more uncertain, but this just adds to the charm, and was a great touch for readers like Sprout who have literally grown up with Otis as a friend.

With Otis and the Scarecrow, we now have a title for all seasons - but I sincerely hope Long isn't done with the little red tractor. Sprout (and Mom and Daddy) can hardly wait for more!

Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long, published by Philomel Books
Ages 2-5
Source: Our collection
First line: "It was summer when the scarecrow first came to the farm where the friendly little tractor named Otis lived, back when the corn was tall and ripe."
Highly recommended

1 comment:

Jen Robinson said...

So glad to hear that Sprout is turning into a book nut. What a happy thing for all of you! I don't think I've read Otis... Must remedy.