Otis and the Scarecrow

by Loren Long

Fans of Loren Long’s popular Otis series have a new seasonally-appropriate book to read!  Otis and the Scarecrow is Long’s seventh book featuring a beloved, sensitive tractor and his friends on the farm.   All are beautifully illustrated and give wonderful models for social and emotional behavior.

In this story, Otis discovers a new friend on the farm.  It’s a sourpuss scarecrow that stands in the middle of the field, all alone.  The animals and Otis are at first confused by the scarecrow ignoring them and put off by the way he looks and smells, and they eventually give up on him because of his lack of interaction.

Seasons change, the friends play together like they always do, and the loner scarecrow stays the same.  All alone.  Still frowning.  One rainy autumn day, Otis and his animals friends are playing a game at the top of the hill.   It’s “the quiet game,” which gives Otis a still, silent opportunity to look at the scarecrow in the distance.  When the game ends (he wins, of course!), he puffs over to the scarecrow and stays beside him.  He doesn’t want him to be alone anymore.  More importantly, he doesn’t want him to be lonely.  All of the animal friends follow Otis and join him, huddling around the scarecrow and feeling happy to be a friend to even the grumpiest, quietest loner on the farm.

While the story doesn’t feature much action or resolution, it does feature compassion and kindness.  Whether or not the scarecrow changed his ways, Otis and all the animals decided it was better to take the first step at friendship than sit off by themselves and ignore that quirky character from afar.  Otis is a great leader and example of how we want children to behave, and this gentle story gives them a chance to see themselves in the situation.  There is no injustice done by the scarecrow — he is not mean or rude — and this is key to helping children see the moral in the story without being caught up in “the rules,” as often happens.  The scarecrow is just different and is someone who is hard to figure out, but Otis and his friends show that it’s always best to give people a chance.  Even if there is no new friendship born of it, the act of kindness itself brings happiness.

The book itself is large and beautiful.  This makes it a great read aloud option and a wonderful book for young children to read to themselves.  The illustrations are rich and lively, and given their size, they allow the reader to be even more immersed in Otis’ warm, comforting world.