From the author of a slew of comic stories plus a Newbery winner (The Whipping Boy), a tale about a solitary old farmer who makes an old man's equivalent of an imaginary playmate of his scarecrow. At first, Lonesome John's "Scarebird" is strictly utilitarian; it doesn't even have a head, but it looks fearsome that way, so John makes it one and then, by degrees, begins to talk to it and make it more comfortable by giving it hat, raincoat, and shoes; the two even play checkers. When Sam comes by looking for a job, John at first prefers his privacy and the relationship he has established with his invention. Sam, however, is cheerful and persistent; John is soon transferring the scarecrow's belongings to the real boy for his real needs, welcoming someone who can move his own checker pieces and trade harmonica tunes. The gentle humor of this unusual story should endear it to picture-book audiences. Sis' decorative illustrations, in delicately glowing color with economical use of detail and elegant design, convey the timeless mood, the kindliness of the man and boy, and the warmth of their growing friendship. An artful, engaging look at the meaning of commitment to fellow beings; a lovely book.