Margaret Wise Brown, cherished for her unique ability to convey a child's experience and perspective of the world, transformed the landscape of children's literature with such beloved classics as Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Other perennial favourites by Ms. Brown include My World; North, South, East, West; Good Day, Good Night; Christmas in the Barn; Sneakers, the Seaside Cat; and The Dead Bird.
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Caldecott Medalist Diaz (Smoky Night) makes a dramatic departure, in a winsome interpretation of Brown's previously unpublished tale.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.)
PreS-Gr 1-Diaz provides wonderful illustrations for a story Brown wrote in the 1940s. Little scarecrow boy longs to accompany his father, old man scarecrow, to the cornfields to frighten the crows. Instead, he has to remain home to grow and to practice the terrible facial expressions his father teaches him. Convinced that he has mastered the six fierce faces, he slips out early one morning and confronts a big black crow in the field. These encounters test the youngster's mettle, but he succeeds in frightening the bird, filling his father with pride. Brown's masterful use of repetition and rhythm creates a fine read-aloud story. The warm watercolor illustrations incorporate straw and patchwork to evoke a Midwest summer day in this sunny coming-of-age story.-Kathy Piehl, Mankato State University, MN