Curtin brings a Halloween scarecrow to life in this debut picture book that walks a fine line between being playful and scary.
What happens when a scarecrow can’t do his job? It’s a question that has sparked many stories, and in this one, set on Halloween night, a farmer finds his farm overrun with raccoons, possums, crows and other critters. A ragged old scarecrow named Spookety Boo hangs imperturbably on his post, letting the animals nibble his toes. Desperate, the farmer yanks off the scarecrow’s head and replaces it with a jack-o’-lantern. The story looks like it might turn very dark, as Spookety’s new eyes—lit with magic candles—start to throw off sparks and he jumps down off of his post. (The illustration on this page, just frightening enough for little kids without being the stuff of nightmares, is among the best in the book.) Will Spookety turn into a monster, rampage through the town, and ruin Halloween? Nope: The scarecrow, to the farmer’s great disappointment, turns out to be a sweet jokester who just wants to see the Halloween sights and go trick-or-treating with the kids in town. This, the farmer insists, just won’t do: The scarecrow has work to do at the farm, which is quickly becoming a zoo. So, despite his fading candles, Spookety puts on his scariest face and, with the help of the costumed kids, saves the farm. Curtin tells the story from the farmer’s point of view, in rhyming couplets and rolling anapests (“On Halloween night, with things looking grim, / I stomped out to my scarecrow and glared up at him.”). The rhythm runs the gamut from fun and natural to herky-jerky—and, as such, it may sometimes be hard to read out loud. Reyes uses a dark, appropriately Halloween-y color palette in his illustrations, and conjures a scarecrow who’s floppy and sweet in some images and more than a little menacing in others.
A fun, if not groundbreaking, introduction to holiday frights for younger kids.