Reviews for Otis Christmas


Booklist Reviews 2013 November #2
*Starred Review* Otis the tractor returns in a Christmas story of courage and friendship set during a terrible snowstorm at the farm. When the mare's labor becomes difficult on Christmas Eve, a vet is needed--but the truck is stuck in a snowdrift. Otis makes a brave decision: he'll get Doc. Plowing through the woods on a rescue mission, he finds himself on a difficult path. Long's text conveys not just the danger, treacherous, slippery, but also Otis' effort, putt puff puttedy chuff. But how will he wake Doc in the middle of the night? The farmer's Christmas gift, a shiny new horn, will do the trick. The illustrations wonderfully enhance the story, from the joy of the animals prancing around the Christmas tree to Otis' expressive response to the events around him: pride in his gift, concern for his friend, determination to arrive at his destination. Highlighting the always changing perspective, aerial scenes give readers a sense of the big, snowy picture, and close-ups show the farmer's concern. Long's palette reflects the coldness and heaviness of the snow, and then lightness as the farmer prays for a miracle. The view into the barn door, once all is well, is reminiscent of another barn birth, and the text reads, Well, would you look at that! That sums things up nicely. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 December
Gather 'round for holiday fun

Light the fire, grab a mug of hot cocoa and cozy up with the kids for some holiday reading. You’re sure to find magic in a fine Christmas picture book—the best of which will earn a place in your heart and become a treasured part of your family traditions.

That special magic is brilliantly captured in The Christmas Wish, a family project that involved photographer Per Breiehagen, his wife Lori Evert and their young daughter, Anja. Just imagine the warmth and Nordic charm of Jan Brett’s The Wild Christmas Reindeer. Now envision a book that uses breathtaking photographs instead of illustrations to tell its story, and you have The Christmas Wish.

Breiehagen grew up in the mountains of Norway, and a photo he took of Anja with a reindeer inspired his stylist wife Evert to write this holiday story. The result is an exciting tale about a Scandinavian child who dreams of becoming one of Santa’s elves. We first see Anja in her cozy home and at school, tackling holiday chores while contemplating her heart’s desire. One day she simply whooshes away on skis to head to the North Pole, fearlessly plunging into the deep wilderness snow.

Breiehagen’s photographs take readers on a journey up and down mountains, through Northern Light vistas, past frozen waterfalls and across the northern tundra. Along the way, Anja is guided by a cardinal, a giant horse, a musk ox, a polar bear and a reindeer, until she finally reaches the North Pole and sees the big man himself. This unique tale makes readers feel like they’re a part of Anja’s exhilarating journey.

POOR LITTLE SANTA

Children will also enjoy Jon Agee’s Little Santa, an amusing tale about Santa’s childhood. In contrast to the photographic opulence of The Christmas Wish, this story features minimalist illustrations that spin a yarn about a down-on-their-luck family living a dreary life at the North Pole. Young Santa lives in a drab cabin with his parents and six brothers and sisters, all of whom hate the winter chill and dream of moving to Florida. Santa, on the other hand, adores winter fun and can’t stop baking gingerbread cookies and sliding down their chimney.

Just as the family prepares to move, a blizzard buries the house and traps the Claus family. Santa is sent up the chimney to get help. He encounters a buried reindeer, and together they fly to a house that happens to be jam-packed with elves.

Little Santa is a lively romp in which elves say things like “Holy Snowflake,” and young Santa saves the day, meeting a gang of friends who will obviously become his North Pole mainstay.

TRACTOR TROUBLE

Kids will clamor for An Otis Christmas, Loren Long’s fourth story about a spunky little tractor who lives on a hillside farm. Everyone there is happily preparing for Christmas, and Otis is thrilled when the farmer presents him with a shiny new horn on Christmas Eve.

Otis’ sense of holiday cheer quickly turns to dismay, however, when Doc Baker is desperately needed for a horse in labor. Unfortunately, a blinding snowstorm makes his arrival seem impossible, until our trusty tractor sets out bravely into the dark, stormy night, “with snow up to his chin.” Plenty of excitement awaits as Otis chugs up a steep hill and comes to the edge of a cliff, shining his headlights into the abyss.

Long’s gouache-and-pencil illustrations are full of heartfelt charm, yet never stoop to cutesiness. His wonderful Otis series provides a classic new option for vehicle and adventure lovers alike.

CHRISTMAS CATS

I’m not a cat person, but Fuddles completely wins me over. A Very Fuddles Christmas is the second book about this charismatic cat, written and illustrated by Disney animator Frans Vischer and based on his family’s pampered, fat cat. Spoiled “endlessly,” Fuddles thinks Christmas is just for him. He lights up at the sight of a fancy turkey dinner, a gingerbread house and a twinkling Christmas tree. He has a rude awakening, however, when he knocks the tree over and flees in dismay, only to find himself stranded outside in the cold.

Vischer adds humor every step of the way, both to text (“Like a pioneer frontiersman, Fuddles bravely faced the elements”) and to his endearing depictions of Fuddles’ escapades. His illustrations practically leap off the page with energy and imagination. Rest assured that Fuddles does find his way back inside, arriving via a dramatic holiday route.

On a very different note, Maryann Macdonald was inspired to write The Christmas Cat when she saw Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing “La Madonna del Gatto,” showing young Jesus holding a cat. What if Jesus had a cat, she wondered. In Macdonald’s fresh take on the Nativity story, she begins: “Jesus was beautiful, like all babies. And like all babies, he cried.” Baby Jesus is inconsolable, in fact, until a curious kitten begins to nuzzle him and purr.  Thus a friendship is born, and later, when Mary, Joseph and Jesus flee Bethlehem to escape into Egypt, this faithful kitten saves the day when danger is near. Softly evocative illustrations by Amy June Bates enhance this gentle biblical tale.

MOVE OVER, GOLDILOCKS

After watching polar bears frolic at the Central Park Zoo, Maria Modugno went home and wrote Santa Claus and the Three Bears, a Yule-themed take on Goldilocks. These three polar bears live in a Nordic cottage filled with Scandinavian decor, and everything is picture-perfect until a hungry, sleepy Santa drops in and makes himself at home.

After all is said and done, Santa, of course, has the last word of the day, saying: “Sorry about the chair. I’ll bring you a new one next year.” Preschoolers will relish this festive spin on a beloved tale, illustrated by award-winning artist Jane Dyer and her daughter Brooke Dyer.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Once again, brave little tractor Otis saves the day in his latest heroic adventure. Otis heads into a Christmas Eve blizzard to fetch Doc Baker in hopes of saving an expecting horse and her foal. Tension builds until Otis's new "special horn" comes in handy. Reserved gouache and pencil illustrations capture the frosty setting while touches of color emit a warm glow.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 September #1
As the title indicates, the little tractor Otis celebrates Christmas. Christmas is always exciting, but this one is "even more special," as a baby foal is due. That snowy Christmas Eve is made more thrilling yet when the farmer gives Otis his very first Christmas present: a new horn. Otis can barely contain himself. But in the middle of the night, he awakes to hear the sounds of consternation in the pregnant mare's stall: "Something [is] very wrong." Unfortunately, the snow is falling fast, and the stable hand sent to fetch Doc Baker promptly fishtails into a snowbank. It's Otis to the rescue again. Off he goes, "putt puff puttedy chuff," through the woods (where he is briefly lost) to Doc Baker's, where he uses his new horn to sound the alarm. Doctor and tractor make it back just in time. While Otis is a charming character, and the Christmas theme has great appeal, this is a rather lackluster outing for the sturdy tractor. Long's heroic art is at its best in scenes with people and animals, his Lawson-esque line investing characters with emotion and movement. The rendition of Otis' journey is rather less effective; only the most credulous of children will accept the sight of Otis inching his way down a massive, snow-covered tree trunk. The text likewise underwhelms, with its overreliance on exclamation points and treacly delivery. A rare miss for Long and Otis. (Picture book. 3-5) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 September #3

Otis the tractor returns in a grim holiday story with odd allusions to the Nativity story. A horse on the farm is set to give birth on Christmas Eve, but when a "big snow" makes the roads impassible, Otis must save the day after the horse is found ailing ("We need Doc Baker out here tonight or we'll lose 'em both," says the farmer). Long's illustrations are typically heroic as Otis attempts a risky midnight drive, but adults and children alike may be perplexed by the glow emanating from the barn when the foal is born, the star marking on its forehead, and the news that "people from all around the valley came... to get a glimpse of the Christmas foal." Ages 3-7. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 December

K-Gr 3--Otis is back, this time anticipating Christmas and the birth of a new foal. To add to his excitement, he receives a new horn, his first Christmas present ever. His joy is short-lived, however, when, in the middle of a snowy night, he overhears that the mare is sick: "We need Doc Baker out here tonight or we'll lose 'em both!" When the farmhand sent to get Doc plunges into a snowdrift during the raging storm, Otis, as always, comes to the rescue, setting out "with snow up to his chin." He gets lost in the woods only to discover that he is perched on the precipice of a hill. Bravely heading down a steep, slippery branch, he reaches the doctor's house, alerts him with his horn, and brings him back to save the day. The grayish-blue hues that predominate in Long's lovely, large-framed illustrations create a sense of cold stillness. Executed in gouache and pencil, they depict the red tractor in sharp contrast to countryside and woods blanketed in deep snow. There are few surprises here, and the tree branch jutting from the hill seems forced. Traveling down the branch leads Otis a bit too conveniently almost to Doc Baker's door. Otis's fans may turn to this one, but it is an additional purchase.--Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

[Page 98]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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