I really enjoyed creating the book Tractor Mac: New Friend for several reasons. It was the first book on which we partnered with our new publisher, Macmillan. Plus, I got to introduce two new characters: Daisy the tractor, and her driver, Cathy. I had to introduce a new human character because in my books the tractors only drive themselves when humans are not present. I couldn’t have a tractor plowing and tilling fields without her driver. The new farmhand driver is named Cathy, after Cathy and Howie of Maple Bank Farm in my hometown. The farm in my book, Stony Meadow Farm, is based loosely on Maple Bank and my parent’s farm, Windsong. Daisy is based on an International Harvester Farmall Cub, a very versatile little tractor, the smallest of the Farmall tractors. This story allowed me to showcase all the different jobs a small tractor can do on the farm. I am still impressed with the number of implements and their different functions that are available for these machines. Variations in soils, the different steps in developing and maintaining a field, and the type of crop all dictate the type of implement to use.
The take away from the story in New Friend is that one needs to set small goals to reach a big goal. It’s about taking the time to do things right and it’s about the importance of persistence and tenacity. Again, these were lessons I would try to impart to my children as they were growing up. In the story, Daisy is overwhelmed when she tries to tackle reclaiming a long unused farm field. Tractor Mac and Sibley guide her in taking manageable swipes at the task and over time she sees tangible results. I especially enjoyed drawing the page that features a series of images that shows Daisy making progress in the fields. In this book we also see a return of Spartan the colt, Sibley’s nephew, who made his debut in the previous book, Family Reunion. I like the fact that Spartan is young and learning and similarly, so is Daisy and her young operator, Cathy. Also joining the romp in this book is Goat Walter, the doubting, fearful Nubian goat. He’s not a saboteur but is his normal negative-naysayer self until Daisy turns him into a believer. Walter is such a fun character, (named after my Grandfather); he appears in almost every Tractor Mac book. Daisy comes back and appears in the books Teamwork and Friends on the Farm. The 1948 Farmall Cub that I own became ‘Daisy’ after I purchased another tractor, a 1947 Farmall BN, that became Tractor Mac. You might see Tractor Mac or Daisy when you come visit me at a county fair or tractor show!