The Scarecrow's Dance
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The Scarecrow's Dance

4.3 3
by Jane Yolen, Bagram Ibatoulline
     
 

Jane Yolen introduces us to the fickle scarecrow, who decides to leave his station and dance away the fall night. He leaps through the fields until he reaches the farmhouse, where he sees a small light in the window. Inside, a boy is saying his prayers, and he offers up a special prayer for the corn that will be harvested in the morning. Humbled, the scarecrow

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Overview

Jane Yolen introduces us to the fickle scarecrow, who decides to leave his station and dance away the fall night. He leaps through the fields until he reaches the farmhouse, where he sees a small light in the window. Inside, a boy is saying his prayers, and he offers up a special prayer for the corn that will be harvested in the morning. Humbled, the scarecrow knows what he has to do: He returns to the field and watches over the corn as only he can. Masterfully told, with illustrations by award winner Bagram Ibatoulline, this book has all the makings of a new classic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In an autumn cornfield, a threadbare scarecrow leaps high into the sky to dance across the darkening landscape. The pastoral evening images evoke a bygone era, and the descriptions of the scarecrow's excursion are both nostalgic and visceral. “He danced past tractor/ In the field,/ Still waiting to/ Bring in the yield.... He danced by barn/ As red as blood/ And two pigs sleeping/ In the mud.” The scarecrow (who has the potential to frighten, though his wide painted smile helps) peers through the window of a solitary farmhouse where a boy—in glowing, soft-focus light—prays at his bedside: “And bless tonight/ Our old scarecrow/ Who guards the fields/ And each corn row,” his prayer launching a closing poetic meditation. “What prayers do scarecrows/ Make to God?/ Of sky and rain,/ And wind and sod?” While such reflections may be too obscure for some, the scarecrow's ethereal movements and Ibatoulline's hazy and atmospheric setting (the azure night sky is especially haunting, as the scarecrow leaps back into his rightful place) will stay with readers. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
On a moonlit autumn night, a wild wind blows the clothes off an old scarecrow. He magically stirs, moves, jogs along the cornfield, passes the barn, and comes to the lit farmhouse. Inside he sees a young boy at prayer, asking for blessings on all the farm, including the scarecrow, who must protect the corn crop from the predator crows. The scarecrow, listening, weeps "a pail/ Of painted tears." Reminded of his duty, he dances back to his pole and kneels, praying what prayers, "We'll never know." But back he leaps onto his pole, which "Just fits his soul./For anyone can dance,/ Thought he,/But only I/ Can keep fields free." Yolen's rhymed couplets, although occasionally awkward, vividly evoke the magic of the night and the mystery of the scarecrow, along with the spirituality of the prayers of both child and scarecrow. Ibatoulline's naturalistic double-page illustrations, deftly produced with acryl gouache and watercolors, create a mysterious low key atmosphere in shades of brown and dull blues. The scarecrow dancing against the dark sky with flocks of black crows and his distant flying image through the corn plants are particularly effective. Our emotions are stirred by both the praying child and the tears on the face of the scarecrow. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1–Despite the pairing of formidable talents, this book will likely have a limited audience. The purposeful plot is driven by its message: a scarecrow that experiences the freedom of a wind-blown night decides to return to his post (literally) after witnessing the farm boy on his knees, praying for the straw man’s success in guarding the crops. There is little action, except for the protagonist breezing along past a dimly lit tractor, weathered barn, and cows at rest. Each of Ibatoulline’s gouache and watercolor scenes is technically brilliant and atmospheric, but there is a disconnect with the sequencing and passage of time. Opening pages depict the corn silhouetted against a sky that is pink at the horizon and hazy blue on the upper borders of the spreads (twilight?). Subsequent spreads are a mixture of deeper blues, then a return to pink light, a misty gray, rose again, and finally almost turquoise; the effect is disconcerting. The sentimentality climaxes when the scarecrow peers through the darkness into the boy’s bedroom, which is drenched in an orange glow. Yolen’s unremarkable poetry reads: “The scarecrow heard/With painted ears,/And wept a pail/Of painted tears.” Adults may find this story of “faith and duty” uplifting, but kids will prefer the nocturnal farm adventures found in Bill Martin and John Archambault’s Barn Dance! (Holt, 1986).–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
One autumn's eve, the forlorn scarecrow watching over the cornfield is magically freed. Silently he leaps and dances through the fields, exultant. Up to a farmhouse window he twirls to witness a young boy praying. A blessing on the scarecrow for a bountiful harvest is what the child asks. The scarecrow weeps, knowing " �For anyone can dance,' / Thought he, / �But only I / Can keep fields free.' " Understanding his duty, the scarecrow returns to the fields to fulfill his calling. Yolen's atmospheric tale alludes to Christ's sacrifice, and Ibatoulline reinforces that theme with the final image: the scarecrow sacrosanct on his cross-like pole. The rhyming text creates an eerie atmosphere, mixing the sacred with the profane-blood-red barns, cawing crows and a moon "As yellow as / A black cat's eye." Beautifully painted environments sweep across the pages, standing in stark contrast to the scarecrow's face, which has a much more graphic quality. A conversation-starter for parents interested in discussing the meaning of sacrifice or who wish to explore Christian faith with their children. (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416937708
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
08/25/2009
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
754,402
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen has written more than 250 books, including How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She has won the Christopher Medal and the Golden Kite Award, among other honors. She lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Bagram Ibatoulline has illustrated The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and a number of other picture books. Born in Russia, he now lives in Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania.

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