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Posted July 5, 2013
In the tradition of ¿The Wizard of Oz,¿ Philip Pullman¿s childre
In the tradition of “The Wizard of Oz,” Philip Pullman’s children’s novel, “The Scarecrow and His Servant” blends fantasy with adventure to create a curious story of friendship and ingenuity. When struck by lightning in a wheat field, a typical scarecrow with a broomstick backbone and a turnip head comes to life like Frankenstein—with the notable exception of the scarecrow’s decidedly benign and non-monstrous nature. The Scarecrow soon happens upon a young boy, Jack, whom he adopts as his servant, and the two embark upon an adventurous journey to Spring Valley, where the Scarecrow is sure that he belongs. They encounter dangerous events at every turn, from brigands to a regiment to a shipwreck, and their quest is challenging. Fortunately for the humorous and often ignorant Scarecrow, Jack is inventive and resourceful, and together they face each trial with hope. However, as with every folk story, there is a villain determined to have his own way, and this time that entity is embodied by the Buffalonis, an ill-famed family who claims the rights to Spring Valley. The outcome may be unexpected, but the fun and danger of the journey is certain.
“The Scarecrow and His Servant” is written much like a fairy tale for older children and adolescents aged approximately 8-12. There are many words that will require a dictionary or an adult’s guidance, and the obscenity “damn” appears on page 116. The story itself is highly fantastical and unbelievable, containing multiple anachronisms such as mentions of winning the lottery and a police station, but hence the mythical element. Overall, Pullman’s short novel introduces readers to endearing characters and an interesting plotline fraught with obstacles and humor, if inaccurate and insensible at times.
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