Children's author to present program, give children books at Fondulac District Library

Jeanette Kendall TimesNewspapers
The new Festival of Lights float based on local author Mike Rucker’s “Terry the Tractor” book series sits outside of the Fondulac District Library. Rucker will present a program at the library from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Terry the Tractor made his debut in this year’s Festival of Lights parade.

Terry the Tractor is a new float and was already in the works as a full-size Caterpillar tractor float when Peoria author Mike Rucker contacted float chairman John Broshears about an idea that he had for several years. Rucker writes a series of books about a character named Terry that is a tractor.

“The Terry the Tractor books are pretty well-known within Central Illinois and I felt that he deserved a float in the FOLEPI parade,” Rucker said. “When I approached John Broshears, manager of the FOLEPI floats, he agreed and showed me a partially finished float of a full-sized Caterpillar machine and told me that it could be made into the Terry float.  I immediately agreed. Although Terry is a small tractor I felt this would help him to grow up. All the unfinished float needed was a face — huge eyes and a mouth — and, of course, the many LED lights to make him come alive.”

Rucker said it was a thrill to see “Terry” in the Festival of Lights parade this year.

Rucker, 74, began writing his children-based books with Terry the Tractor as the main character when he was living in Australia. Rucker said he wrote the first three stories for his son Derek.

“The idea came from my 40 years of employment with Caterpillar Inc. at various locations around the world,” Rucker said. “Terry the Tractor is, sort of, my ‘alter ego.’ Through him I tell stories to kids about my value system and what I feel is important in life. I try not 

to be ‘preachy’ but to provide engaging tales that kids will like and learn from.”

The first three titles are called “Terry the Tractor,” “Terry and the Bully” and “Terry the Athlete.” 

Upon returning to Peoria, Rucker eventually got his stories published, initially by Aegina Press. Rucker went on to release 15 more Terry the Tractor books, one each year. All 18 of the Terry the Tractor books feature cover and interior art by Bob Burchett, a graphic artist who lives in Florence, Ky. 

Those interested in the Terry the Tractor books may get one for free from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fondulac District Library.  Rucker will sign a book for all children who attend. Also, the new FOLEPI Terry the Tractor float will be on display at the library.

Rucker said he is now working on a different series of children’s books. In addition to his children’s books, which he said he chose to do because he is “an advocate of children’s reading programs” and volunteers for this in various ways, Rucker is a Civil War author and lecturer. His Civil War-based book is called “Bridge Burner” and was released in 2014. Rucker said he is planning on writing more Civil War books.

When he is not writing a book, Rucker runs competitively. He has participated in 44 marathons, including one or more on all the seven continents. He is a Recreational Trail Advocate (Vice President of the Friends of the Rock Island Trail), Environmentalist (Steward of the Springdale Cemetery Savanna), Children’s Reading Advocate (Volunteer with “Look it’s my Book” program), Edgar Allan Poe re-enactor and lecturer (Bradley University’s OLLI Continuing Education Program and elsewhere). Rucker has been married to Harriet for 45 years. They have one son, Derek, and three granddaughters.

To learn more about the Terry the Tractor series, visit terrythertractor.com. The 18 Terry books may also be purchased at the I Know You Like a Book shop in Peoria Heights for $4.95 or at terrythetractor.com (shipping cost is $1 per book).