The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by The Fan Brothers (9780062475763)
Throughout the seasons, Scarecrow guards the fields, keeping the deer, crows and other animals away. He has no friends and none of the animals have any contact with him. He is alone. Then one spring, a baby crow falls from its nest. Scarecrow does something he has never done before. He beds down and saves that little crow, tucking it safely into his overalls. The two become immediate friends and steadily the crow grows larger and is able to fly. They spend their days and nights together, until one day the crow flies away. Scarecrow is left along again, on a broken pole in the winter snow. Still, seasons change and as spring returns there is hope.
Ferry has written a captivating story about a very lonely scarecrow who makes one compassionate choice that changes his entire existence. Ferry takes time to make sure that readers understand the profound loneliness of the scarecrows time on his pole and then the delight of him moving is a wonderful surprise. The story has a great structure and arc that children will love, watching the relationship build and the seasons change.
As always, the Fan Brothers are superb. In this book, the illustrations are done in pencil, ballpoint and digitally. The landscapes are lush are seasonal, the golden sun of autumn, the muted colors of winter. The painted face of the scarecrow manages to show real emotion somehow without really moving until he is truly distressed.
A great fall read that will work for springtime too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (9781481438285)
In ten separate but linked stories, award-winning author Reynolds creates an entire neighborhood of ten blocks. The book begins, and refers throughout, with a school bus falling from the sky. There is one story per block, different kids on each block living their lives, going to school, facing various things in their futures, pasts and presents. There are best-friend boogers, petty theft for a good cause, complicated but important handshakes, stand-up comedy, body odor and body spray, and fake dogs. It’s a book about what happens after school, whether it is friendship or bullying, loneliness or comfort.
This one deserves a medal. Period. It’s one of those books that reads so easily, since it’s written with such skill. The voices of the characters are varied but all intensely realistic and vibrantly human. Reynolds plays with the reader but invites them into the joy of the joke, showing the layers of what children are and what they feel and do. He demonstrates that ten times here, always deeply exploring each character before moving on to the next and celebrating them.
The stories arc together moving from humor to pain to loss to fear to freedom and everywhere in between. The characters form a community on the page, streets unfold before the reader and they get to journey them with friends they just met opening the book. The final chapters are masterful, the text moving from narrative to spoken word to rap. The rhythm of the book throughout is a dance, here it becomes a heartbeat of life.
Look for this incredible read to win some big awards this spring. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.