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The Scarecrow and His Servant Paperback – May 8, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4-6–Old Mr. Pandolfo, feeling that life is getting too difficult–what with troublesome weather, troublesome soldiers, and very troublesome cousins–decides the time has come to create a scarecrow. At least a scarecrow would take care of the birds. Mr. Pandolfo creates a fine scarecrow, indeed, with a large turnip for a head, a broomstick for a backbone, dressed in a tweed suit stuffed with straw. Hidden within it, carefully wrapped in oilskin, is a mysterious letter. But how can this extraordinary creature–who comes to life when struck by a bolt of lightning–fulfill his destiny if he's stuck out in the middle of a field? Enter Jack, an enterprising, intelligent, and practical young orphan fleeing the soldiers who robbed him of home and family. Jack's motto, It could be worse, comes in handy as he agrees to become the servant of the rather egocentric scarecrow, setting off to find excitement and glory. Scarecrow's excellent opinion of himself sets the stage for a variety of silly, yet dangerous, adventures. Run-ins with government officials, soldiers, and unscrupulous business people provide plenty of opportunities for moralizing on the evils of society. In another setting, this story line might seem over-the-top, but Pullman's clever employment of fairy-tale conventions, his superb use of language, and his engaging dialogue make it a wholly satisfying yarn of ridiculous proportions, and Bailey's line drawings provide just the right feeling of long ago that every good fairy tale deserves.–Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 4-6. Pullman seems equally at home whether creating high fantasy, Victorian mysteries, or old-fashioned stories in the fairy-tale fashion. Here he excels in the latter mode, creating unique characters to charm young readers. When Scarecrow (reminiscent of his relative in the Wizard of Oz) meets orphan Jack, both the boy and straw man see the wisdom of Jack's attending to the scarecrow as a servant. Together the pair contends with "danger . . . followed by glory . . . leading to sorrow" as promised by a fortune-teller. It's Jack who keeps Scarecrow's head on (literally at times) as his master blithely takes a turn on the boards, becomes an officer in the army, and finds treasure on an island, even as he keeps his inner conviction rolled up on a scroll stuffed in his shirt. The umbrella story about Scarecrow's raison d'etre (to rescue his polluted valley from an evil ruling family) is purposive, but its sharp point is cushioned by the flimflam and fancy pervading the tale. Best of all, however, is the charm exuded by Scarecrow and the boy, two memorable fellows who may seem familiar, but are utterly their own. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440421306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440421306
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By H. A. Mollick on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is hysterical, poignient, learned, and not being read by kids anywhere. The publisher should be ashamed for not marketing "Scarecrow" well : my local Borders had it in " teen science fiction"! My 10 year old and I had an uproarious time with this book - Pullman is a clever, sharp and taut writer . For those who enjoyed "The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists " (another poorly sold book), or maybe the funniest parts of "Hoot",this book is for you - and tell your friends ! Teachers of grades 4-7 need to get on the ball - it isn't just Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, or Kate DeCamilla (at least she 's popular) out there !
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Annette Mwatt on November 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
A delightful, laugh-out-loud read, for children and adults alike. From the wonderful Phillip Pullman .

The scarecrow, lovingly constructed by the ailing farmer - and complete with turnip head - comes to life when struck by lightening. Then his travels start. He meets young Jack - all alone in the world - and says to him :" Here you are, an honest and willing youth and here am I, a Scarecrow of enterprise and talent. What would you say if I offered you the position of my personal servant ? "

Jack accepts - and their adventures begin. A rollicking tale complete with military skirmishes, pirates, lost treasure. A wonderful cast of birds, led by Granny Raven. And the villianous Buffalonis, intent on destroying all that is beautiful in the Scarecrow's true home, Spring Valley.

The story comes to its climactic finale in the courtroom where the Buffalonis plot to deprive the noble scarecrow of Spring Valley. The final chapter will leave you laughing with joy. And renewed appreciation of Phillip Pullman's exceptional talent.

Read the book with an open mind. Do not compare this with the famous Dark Materials trilogy, as some readers inevitably will do. Enjoy it purely as a story. A multi-layered story. Children will enjoy this story on their level. The astute adult reader will gain something more : The courtroom scene with its costumed pomposity and legal terminology " non independentem judgi nogoodi " is a clever broadside at the theatre of the court.

Pullman's use of the English language - and a lexicon of names as rich as J.K.Rowling's - will leave the reader wanting more from this author. I loved the Dark Materials trilogy and all its complexities.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Angela J. Thorpe on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ever since reading Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials", I practically dive at any book he writes and it's been a while since he's written anything, so I did a full swan dive for this book.

"The Scarecrow and His Servant" is purely fairy tale. I never quite believed Lord Scarecrow and Jack could be real (whereas I'm still convinced Lyra and her Daemon are out there somewhere from "His Dark Materials"). It's always a bit of a disappointment to not become so engrossed in a book, the characters become real. However, that's about the only disappointment.

Lord Scarecrow and his turnip head (though I kept picturing him as the scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz") is anxious to seek his fortune and rescue his birthplace from being polluted. On their tail is a lawyer working for the Buffalonis, the polluting family, who reminds me of Count Olaf. Poor Jack just wants to stay alive and not be hungry. In between are many adventures including a desert island, joining the military, which all leads to a climactic courtroom scene.

A great fairy tale for the preteen set (and us older preteens as well).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dodd Kay on February 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read this book to my 8-year old daughter. Every night, she couldn't wait til i come home from work, cuddle up under a blanket, and read it to her. She laughed, cried, and learned, and...we both fell in love with the way this scarecrow looked at life. 3 weeks later and she is still associating with, and laughing about, the positive way this creature interpreted life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Litterarum Studiosus on July 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
In the tradition of "The Wizard of Oz," Philip Pullman's children's novel, "The Scarecrow and His Servant" blends fantasy with adventure to create a curious story of friendship and ingenuity. When struck by lightning in a wheat field, a typical scarecrow with a broomstick backbone and a turnip head comes to life like Frankenstein--with the notable exception of the scarecrow's decidedly benign and non-monstrous nature. The Scarecrow soon happens upon a young boy, Jack, whom he adopts as his servant, and the two embark upon an adventurous journey to Spring Valley, where the Scarecrow is sure that he belongs. They encounter dangerous events at every turn, from brigands to a regiment to a shipwreck, and their quest is challenging. Fortunately for the humorous and often ignorant Scarecrow, Jack is inventive and resourceful, and together they face each trial with hope. However, as with every folk story, there is a villain determined to have his own way, and this time that entity is embodied by the Buffalonis, an ill-famed family who claims the rights to Spring Valley. The outcome may be unexpected, but the fun and danger of the journey is certain.

"The Scarecrow and His Servant" is written much like a fairy tale for older children and adolescents aged approximately 8-12. There are many words that will require a dictionary or an adult's guidance, and the obscenity "damn" appears on page 116. The story itself is highly fantastical and unbelievable, containing multiple anachronisms such as mentions of winning the lottery and a police station, but hence the mythical element. Overall, Pullman's short novel introduces readers to endearing characters and an interesting plotline fraught with obstacles and humor, if inaccurate and insensible at times.
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