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A tractor pulls in readers

Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney the Dinosaur, Dora the Explorer — all have been loved by millions of children in the U.S. And if Opp native Angie Wyatt is successful, her creation “Timmy the Tractor” will soon join that list.

Wyatt, who was born in Opp and worked as a news anchor in Harrisburg, Ill., returned home to visit and read her first children’s book, Timmy the Tractor: His Hay Day at the Opp Public Library on Saturday morning. The free reading was billed as an “interactive story time,” and Wyatt entertained the young readers with music, dancing and giant props, in addition to telling them the story of Timmy the Tractor and his farm-dwelling friends.

“It’s my first children’s book and I’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Wyatt said. “I’m hoping it’s also a way to introduce a whole new cast of characters for kids. We’ve got toys, T-shirts, and soon we’ll have a live-theater production where kids can meet Timmy and his friends face to face.”

Wyatt said she decided to write a book about a living tractor because her young son was fascinated with farm equipment at an early age and one of his first words was “tractor.”

“Having lived in the Midwest a large portion of my life, it breaks my heart to see the decline of the American family farm,” she said. “I’m hoping that the books and Timmy can maybe rekindle some of that interest in kids.”

Every facet of Wyatt’s book is designed to make it accessible to young children. The names are short and have alliterative names — Timmy the Tractor, Bill the Baler, Manny the Mower, Ralph the Rake; and the various characters are each painted bright primary colors — Timmy is red, Bill is blue, Manny is yellow and Ralph is green.

“The characters are likeable and the kids seem to connect with them,” she said. “When we were testing the characters, we found the girls seemed to really like Manny, who was bright yellow, so we decided to make her the one character who’s female. The book has simple, short words, and the illustrations are very basic — bright colors and bold shapes and sizes.”

Wyatt said the book’s lessons are also important to a child’s development, and include patience and teamwork.

Wyatt got her start in broadcasting by working as a 15-year-old disc jockey at WOPP-AM radio in Opp, and said she always tries to return home to visit whenever she can.

“I still have a lot of family in the area, so I try to get back often,” she said. “I was happy to do this interactive reading here today. I feel like it’s a chance for me to give back to the community that has given me so much.”

Wyatt graduated from Troy State University in 1991 and studied government at Harvard University in 1996. She began her career at WJHG-TV in Panama City, Fla. After moving on to WABU-TV in Boston, she next worked at WKBW-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., before eventually moving to WSIL-TV in Harrisburg, Ill. She was previously nominated for the Mid-America and New England Emmy Awards.

Wyatt is the daughter of Rita and Steve Wyatt. She is married to Jon and they have a son, Wyatt.

Timmy the Tractor is online on Facebook and at www.timmythetractor.com.