Book review

The Scarecrow and his Servant by Philip Pullman (2004)

One minute there's just an old scarecrow standing in the middle of the field, taking no notice at all of the wind and the rain all around him.

Next minute there's a lightning strike, and something very much more than a mere scarecrow is stuck in the mud in the middle of the field:

His voice was rich and sonorous. His head was made of a great knobbly turnip, with a broad crack for a mouth and a long thin sprout for a nose and two bright little stones for eyes.

Jack's a bit surprised when he hears the?shouting:

The shouts came from a scarecrow, in the middle of the muddiest field in sight, and he was waving his arms wildly and yelling at the top of his voice and leaning over at a crazy angle.
'Help!' he was shouting. 'Come and help me!'
'I think I'm going mad,' said Jack to himself.

But anyway, Jack's at a bit of a loose end, and the Scarecrow is stuck in the mud, so Jack gives him a helping hand. And they get on so well together that the Scarecrow offers Jack the position of personal servant:

'I'll do it,' said Jack. 'I've got nothing else to do except starve, and nowhere to live except ditches and empty barns. So I might as well have a job, and thank you, Mr Scarecrow, I'll take it.'

Now you might think there isn't much to choose between scarecrows, but actually this one really is full of enterprise and talent, (as he himself would say), and furthermore, he does have an inner conviction, which turns out to be a jolly good thing for Jack.

This story is written in a traditional style with traditional-style characters that don't turn up in children's books much these days. Easy to read, with a different adventure in each chapter, and a satisfying end.

Written foryounger readers than His Dark Materials, and very different style. See what you think...

What can I read next?

Well, this is the other face of Philip Pullman, when he's not busy writing about Will and Lyra. If you enjoy The Scarecrow and his Servant have a look at?these titles also by Philip Pullman:

If you fancy a nice gentle story for younger readers you might have a?look at?the Temmi stories by Stephen Elboz:

Or this lovely?story by Charlotte Haptie:

If you really fancy following up the scarecrow link, the classic scarecrow (who is very grumpy, as I recall) was created by Barbara Euphan Todd:

  • Worzel Gummidge

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