Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Scarecrows' Wedding

From the creators of the Gruffalo comes a new book, 'The Scarecrows' Wedding'.

Scarecrows, Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay are getting married. With a list in hand, they set off around the farm to plan a wedding that no one will ever forget.

A variety of farm animals offer assistance to make this a wedding to end all weddings. The geese offer their feathers to make the dress, the cows will ring their bells, two helpful mice find a ring apiece and a stripy bee leads them to a field of pink flowers. Oh, and  a crab comes scuttling out with a necklace of shells...lucky for Betty, as a necklace of shells was on her wedding list!

Deciding he needs water to keep the flowers fresh, Harry sets off on another finding mission. Leaving Betty alone on the farm, she starts to worry. The farmer decides to make another scarecrow to take Harry's place.  What happens next can only be described as a little bewildering. The new scarecrow, Reginald Rake, is definitely pitched as 'the bad guy' in the book who tries to woo Betty with his dashing moves and smoke rings...

It is at this point in the story that many a parent and reviewer have been outraged. Should smoking be depicted in a children's picture book, in whatever light it is portrayed? Scholastic, the book's publisher, has issued a statement saying that it had carefully considered the plotline, but was satisfied in the end that smoking was not being promoted in anyway, in fact it was clearly articulated that it is bad for you.

Do bad guys need to smoke to be bad guys? Do young children need this sort of thing depicted in picture books? With the strict legislation around smoking advertising, depiction and promotion - I think this is a little too close for comfort.

The other thing that didn't ring true for me in this book was the crab that suddenly appears on the farm with a necklace of shells...but maybe that's just me!

Donaldson's rhyming text and Scheffler's distinctive illustrations will still appeal to many fans though, I'm sure.

Scholastic UK
Hard cover
RRP $24.99

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