Despite growing up in the Midwest, Loren Long never spent much time on a farm. But the hardworking rural life inspired the character for his latest picture book, "Otis." He visits Best of Books, 1313 E. Danforth Road in Edmond, 4 p.m. today to sign copies of the title, which tells the touching story of a tractor on the farm.
Long was born in Joplin, Mo., and spent part of his childhood in Tulsa and later Kentucky. Although he currently resides in Cincinnati, he said he still feels strong ties to his roots, and wanted to dedicate his book to the straightforward, yet challenging lifestyle of those growing up in the country.
"I've always liked tractors," Long said. "They're so simple in a way, like prehistoric animals sitting around " a 75-year-old relic that is always useful."
OLD, LOVABLE TRACTOR
From this philosophy, a character was born. Otis is an old, lovable tractor who loves a good day's hard work. He lives to serve his farmer, and spends the days after work playing "Ring Around the Rosie" with the ducks and gallivanting around the farm playfully.
One night while he is sleeping, the farmer brings a calf into the barn. At first, the calf is afraid and lonely, but eventually, Otis's quiet engine lulls her to sleep. The two form an unbreakable friendship, and everything seems fine until the farmer brings in another outsider: a brand-new, big, yellow tractor. Otis is forced to sleep outside, while the new tractor replaces him. As he deals with this issue, he also helps the calf escape from danger.
Long said he hopes children and parents alike can relate to "Otis."
"It's the kind of story that hopefully feels like a classic favorite over the years," he said.
Long began illustrating children's books about six years ago, and wrote his first, "Drummer Boy," in fall 2008, followed by illustrating a new edition of "The Little Engine That Could" and the New York Times bestseller "Toy Boat." He has won two Golden Kite Awards, while his artwork has received several gold medals from the Society of Illustrators.
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