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The Scarebird: 12/29/17

The Scarebird by Sid Fleischman

The Scarebird by Sid Fleischman and illustrated by Peter Sís is a cautionary tale of life alone on the farm. A man who has chosen to keep to himself finds himself in need of a scarecrow — or a scarebird — as he calls it.

He sets about making one from his old clothes. As time progresses and the weather changes, he gives more an more of his old clothing to his scarebird to protect it form the elements. He takes to talking to it, as if the thing were the friend he never had or never wanted.

Everything changes when a young man appears at his door, bedraggled and in need of a place to stay. He seems to own nothing more than the old clothes on his back. It is at this point that the old farmer is faced with a decision — does he help the flesh and blood stranger, by reclaiming, re-gifting the clothes of the scarebird, or does he send him on his way?

In this regard, the Scarebird is thematically similar to the climax of Cherry 2000. A man who has developed feelings for a nonliving, anthropomorphic form, is forced to pick between the thing he loves and a person who needs his help. In both cases, they pick the person: here a young man, and there the woman who he has hired as his tracker.

So although this story contains a scarecrow, it doesn't fall into the crossing the cornfield dichotomy. There is no sense of imprisonment, nor does is scarebird ever a potential authority figure. Instead, this story is more a "road not taken" made up of the rural and mankind (or in this case, man on his own).

Three stars

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