cover image The Little Scarecrow Boy

The Little Scarecrow Boy

Margaret Wise Brown. Joanna Cotler Books, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-026284-6

Hewing to an earthy palette of cornfield yellows, oranges, and greens, with shades of blue for contrast, Caldecott Medalist Diaz (Smoky Night) makes a dramatic departure, in a winsome interpretation of Brown's previously unpublished tale. In typical Brown fashion, a strong and loving family bond is at the core of the story, which tells of a happy scarecrow trio. ""Old man scarecrow"" is teaching his son the family business, and although the scarecrow boy is eager to ply his trade, his father tells him repeatedly ""No, little boy./ You can't go./ You're not fierce enough/ to scare a crow./ Wait till you grow."" But one day the lad can't resist giving his new skills a try, and nearly comes to grief. Not until his sixth attempt, making his fiercest face of all, does he finally drive the crows away from the fields. This warmly evoked coming-of-age tale, marked by repetitive phrasing and even pacing, makes for a superior read-aloud, enhanced by the timeless, leisurely quality in Diaz's watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations. The patched look of the scarecrow characters echoes the patchwork of the fields and multicolored corn. With his round head and chubby body, sprouting straw from every sleeve and pocket, the scarecrow boy will enchant young readers; the ""faces"" he makes are a droll caricature of the kind of grimaces children concoct, as his button eyes strain at their threads, his fingers pull cloth lips back to reveal straw ""teeth,"" and so on. This scarecrow boy may be made of straw, but he's all heart--and so is this picture book. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)