cover image The Scarecrow's Dance

The Scarecrow's Dance

Jane Yolen, , illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. . Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-3770-8

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.)