Scarecrow guards the fields of gold.
No one enters.
No one dares.
Scarecrow stands alone and scares
the fox and deer,
the mice and crows.
It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.
The Fan brothers, Terry and Eric, won acclaim for their debut picture book, The Night Gardener. Once again, with The Scarecrow, their illustrations are a delight. They complement and extend Beth Ferry’s rhyming written text. The book depicts the life of a feared scarecrow who, one day, rescues a lone crow chick. Ever after, the scarecrow’s heart is softened, and the nearby birds and animals come to see the guardian of the field in a different manner.
The illustrations were created using pencils, ballpoint pen, and Photoshop. The colour palette perfectly reflects the changing seasons and augments the poetic written text. Indeed, there seems something gently poetic about the artwork with the detailed and textured portrayals of such things as the scarecrow, the golden hayfield, and the swirling snowstorm.
The Scarecrow is a pleasant and sweet book. This is not necessarily what everyone is looking for, but, having said that, there is enough drama and tension in the story to alleviate concerns about the book perhaps being too sweet. The young target audience will find enough conflict in the plot to be perfectly satisfied. Simultaneously, adults sharing the book will enjoy the indisputable quality of the artwork and the evocative word choices of the written text.
Not all of the rhymes are perfect—knows and go, for one example, and stars and are, for another—but the rhymes are generally strong and do not seem forced. Indeed, I think some of the writing is superb. The excerpt chosen for this review, for instance, is a wonderful way to commence the book. The collaboration between poet and artists works well. The Scarecrow will be enthusiastically received.
Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.