by Fleischman, Sid. Illustrated by Peter Sis. (Mulberry, 1984 ISBN 0 688 13105 0) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 1+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
Lonesome John puts up a scarecrow to keep the birds away from his crops. In his loneliness he begins first to fully clothe the scarecrow and eventually to talk with it, even playing checkers with it. Through John's conversation with the Scarebird, we get clues as to his past life. When a young man comes up the road from town, looking for work, John, at first begrudgingly and later willingly, turns his attention from his make-believe friend to a real one.
There are wonderful subtleties and understatements here: John's buried dog in the pasture, the title -- not a scarecrow but a scarebird, John's facial expressions that tell more than the words about how he is feeling, the gradual way he changes first the scarebird into a companion and later Sam, the civility with which John treats the scarebird even when he is taking away the clothing.
John is an eccentric, an isolated person whose behavior would be suspect by most people if they saw him relating to that scarebird. Students might like to look at other eccentrics in literature: Miss Maggie by Cynthia Rylant, Old Henry by Joan Blos, The Man Who Lived Alone by Donald Hall, The Man Who Kept His Heart in a Bucket by Sonia Levitin, for instance. Making lists of ways in which these characters and others are appreciated or unappreciated by other humans and the effect on the eccentrics as well as vice versa might make a good start for discussions about conformity.
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In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
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