by Philip Pullman
Plot Summary:A tattered scarecrow stands in the middle of a muddy field, taking no notice of the violent thunderstorm around him. But when a bolt of lightning strikes him, fizzing its way through his turnip head and down his broomstick, the Scarecrow blinks with surprise–and comes to life.
So begins the story of the Scarecrow, a courteous but pea-brained fellow with grand ideas. He meets a boy, Jack, who becomes his faithful servant. Leaving behind his bird-scaring duties, the Scarecrow sets out for Spring Valley, with Jack at his side. As the valiant Scarecrow plunges them into terrifying dangers–battles, brigands, broken hearts, and treasure islands–he never realizes he’s being followed by the one family who desperately wishes he’d never sprung to life. Will the Scarecrow discover the secret to his past before the crooked Buffalonis close in on him?
This is a very entertaining Middle Grade read. I really enjoyed Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series and "Sally Lockhart" books, so I do like his writing style and his inventive storytelling. The Scarecrow and His Servant is a mix of a fairy tale and an homage to Don Quixote with a sinister streak in the unknown motivations of the powerful Buffaloni family. Although the adventures the Scarecrow takes Jack on are rather sedate and sometimes just silly, Jack and the Scarecrow's schemes are very entertaining and unexpected. The characterizations of the main characters are pretty broad and easy, and while the action in the story moves along at a comfortable pace, it does come together nicely in the climax scenes in the courtroom. And in the final scenes I saw that philosophical edge that Philip Pullman likes to add to his novels and which I always find very interesting. In this case it was the nature of identity.
Although the story seems to focus on the Scarecrow, I found his simple minded sincerity a little tiring after awhile, and thought that earnest and sensible Jack was a great counterpoint, and much more sympathetic. The other standout character was crusty Granny Raven who has some great scenes near the end of the story. This book is a witty, light, easy read - perfect for children or adults who love whimsical reads.