The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #4
"Stand By For Mars!"
April 2006

Children's Fiction Book Reviews
by Kathy Thomason

The Scarecrow and His Servant
by Philip Pullman
Knopf Books for Young Readers

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One day a scarecrow, hanging in a field doing what scarecrows do best, is hit by lightening and in the blink of an eye, he comes to life. After yelling for help, he is rescued from his perch by Jack, a young orphan boy who, after pulling him down, agrees to become his servant and travel with him. He and the Scarecrow set out in search of a life full of glory and excitement. The Scarecrow tells Jack that they need to go to Spring Valley, a place that he says he belongs, a place that is written on his heart. The Scarecrow has a generous heart, a valiant spirit, a sense of adventure and a very, very small brain. All the way through the book, he misinterprets situations and plunges them into one dangerous situation after another. He and Jack dash around the countryside, fighting battles, brigands and surviving a shipwreck, never realizing that they are being chased by the evil Buffalonis, who wish he had never come to life.

In one hilarious scene, they come upon a troupe of traveling players, where the Scarecrow is delighted to be invited to be a prop. Now he has no idea what a prop is nor does he realize that the people all believe that Jack is a ventriloquist.

The Scarecrow is sure that a prop is a type of actor and he proceeds to put on makeup and a wig and when he is told to stand still on stage, he just can't help moving around a little bit, which results in the audience laughing at him and ignoring the actress. She tells two actors standing to the side, dressed as brigands, to remove the Scarecrow from the stage. The Scarecrow doesn't realize they are actors, he believes that they are real brigands, out to hurt the Queen(the actress). As he runs around fighting them, the audience think that it is part of the show and tries to help by yelling at the Scarecrow, telling him where the brigands are. The two actors also don't know what to think of it, but they go along with it, since the audience is having such a good time. But things take an ugly turn when the Scarecrow spots the actress's wig lying on the stage and believes they have cut off her head. He starts hitting on the two actors in earnest now and they in turn get angry and start hitting back harder. Then the stage manager gets involved and soon the whole stage collapse under the weight of all the fighting men. Jack grabs the Scarecrow and convinces him to retreat.

As they run away, the Scarecrow spots a bird-catcher, who has several cages full of birds and, believing that they are prisoners of war, sets them free. The bird-catcher starts yelling that a thief is stealing his birds and he also begins to chase them. Jack and the Scarecrow manage to outrun them and they make to the safety of a field. But once they get there, they realize that the Scarecrow has lost an arm. Jack then surprises him with an umbrella and when the Scarecrow attaches it and realizes that it opens and closes, he gets excited and starts dancing around at how clever he is that he can make his new arm do this.

He and Jack continue on their journey, having many more hilarious adventures on the way, finally ending up in court, testifying against the Buffalonis for polluting the water in Spring Valley. After surviving court, an assassination attempt and many more misunderstandings, Jack and the Scarecrow finally settle down to live out their lives in peace and harmony. Children of all ages will love the adventures of Jack and his master.

This is another soon to be classic, full of fun, adventure and intrigue. If you put Dr. Dolittle, The Wizard of Oz and Don Quixote in a blender and mixed them up very well, you would have the wonderful adventures of The Scarecrow and His Servant.

Author Phillip Pullman is a former teacher who now writes children's books full-time. His award-winning novels for children include I Was a Rat!, Spring-Heeled Jack and the internationally renowned series His Dark Materials. He was awarded the prestigious 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in honor of the body of his work and is the first children's author to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. Pullman lives in Oxford, England with his wife.

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