Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Farmer John's Tractor

Title: Farmer John's Tractor
Author: Sally Sutton
Illustrator: Robyn Belton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6430-5
Year: 2012

Concepts:Capital Resources, Goods/Services, Incentives, Interdependence, Saving


Review: Farmer John's Tractor tells the story of a family trapped by a flood, and the sturdy old machine that comes to their rescue. After a winter deluge causes the river to overflow, the road becomes impassable, and a family ends up stranded in their small yellow car. As the waters rise around them, several vehicles come to the rescue, but none prove up to the task. Finally the titular tractor arrives, escorting the anxious family to higher (and drier) ground.

Simply told, and sharply drawn, this jaunty picture book sets a brisk pace from the start. Written in rhyming couplets, Sally Sutton's verse narration cycles around the opening lines: "Farmer John's Tractor lies locked in the shed,/rusty yet trusty and orangey red," while Robyn Belton illustrates the action in vivid two-page spreads. Reminiscent of old chestnuts such as the The Little Engine That Could and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, the story serves as a paean to old ways and the old machines that sustain them.

Seemingly abandoned at the story's beginning, Farmer John's tractor proves as "trusty as it is rusty" a clear reminder about the importance of valuing the tools of one's trade. That message is re-enforced by the opening image of the tractor in an orderly work shed, with tools and oilcan on the ground next to the right rear wheel. Rusted over or not, Farmer John has clearly taken the time to maintain this vehicle. In that light, the story ends a bit awkwardly. The reader follows the victorious tractor back home, as Sutton reassures us the tractor is "never again to be locked in the shed,/ rusty yet trusty and orangey red." So perhaps even Farmer John has failed to properly value this faithful machine? One way or another, the underlying message is clear: important investments like Farmer John's tractor should be properly taken care of, and if they are, those investments will always pay off.


Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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