Scarecrow's Dance by Jane Yolen

Scarecrow’s Dance

I had the start of this book years ago and wrote the opening couple of verses while listening to a talk by Sid Fleischman. Heidi was sitting next to me and was appalled at my bad manners, but when I told Sid afterward, he just laughed. It took me months to get the book to where I was happy with it. And then about ten years to find a publisher who wanted it. Rubin Pfeffer, then at Simon & Schuster, read the mss. and told me he had “an inspirational line it would be perfect for.” By the time the book had amazing illustrations by Bagram, the sales force and marketing were crazy about it, so it was sold in trade as well. It went into a second printing before the first was released, a lot of it word of mouth I think.


  • It was an honor book in the 2010 Storytelling World Awards and featured in the April 2010 issue of Storytelling World/Storytelling Magazine.
  • It is on Delaware’s Blue Hen Book Award Master List
  • One of the five nominees for the 2011 Blue Hen Book Award (Delaware Libraries Award) in the Picture Book category

What reviewers have said:

  • “In this remarkable book, Jane Yolen’s beautiful rhyming verse is paired with Bagram Ibatoulline’s stunning paintings to give readers a singular picture book experience. Children will enjoy following the scarecrow as he experiences a taste of freedom, and they will appreciate why the little boy’s prayers affect the scarecrow in such a powerful way.”—Through the Looking Glass Review
  • “The scarecrow’s ethereal movements and Ibatoulline’s hazy and atmospheric setting (the azure night sky is especially haunting, as the scarecrow leaps back into his rightful place) will stay with readers.”—PW
  • “Yolen’s story truly makes the scarecrow come alive, and Ibatoulline’s illustrations are breathtaking. “The Scarecrow’s Dance” will definitely be on my Storytime list for October, and I also am buying a copy to decorate my bookshelf at home.—Barnes and Noble
  • “In Ibatoulline’s haunting illustrations, a ‘wild wind’ takes a forlorn scarecrow and sends it dancing across fields. Looking eerily human, it flies over cornstalks into a starlit sky.”—NY Times
  • “Written in beautifully controlled poetry, The Scarecrow’s Dance is about a straw man who gets free of his pole and begins to dance away. Then he overhears a farm child’s prayer and rethinks his purpose in life. I was actually a little surprised to come across a prayer in a picture book, but you’ll find that the plot calls for it, and no, this isn’t just a story for families who pray. It does make you think about faith in a new way, however. For one thing, who besides God might be listening to a prayer, and how might those words of hope affect them?. . .A fine artist from Russia, Ibatoulline renders Yolen’s scarecrow with nighttime mystery and the slightest touch of humor. His cornfield and crows are especially beautiful, stark shapes against a dim sky. The farm child almost looks like he came from a Norman Rockwell painting, but then, that matches the tone of the story, with its emphasis on down-home values such as plain old hard work. . .In a day when “do your own thing” has permeated our culture, it’s actually a risk to write a book like this one, with a message about doing your duty. What impact does fulfilling your responsibilities have on the lives of others? Read about Jane Yolen’s dancing scarecrow for a new take on a very old question.”–Book Aunt Blog
  • “A magical tale about learning who you are and the special things you can do. (Ages 4-8)” —
  • “Warm, comforting and homespun, this tale reminds us that we each have a special purpose that only we can fulfill. I found that the illustrations and the poem made for a cozy read. I could just imagine the feel of night and all its sounds and wonder and the warmth of the home that the scarecrow peeks into. His choice to remain a scarecrow sends a message with an easy touch: There’s no place like home. Perfect for this time of year.”– .”—Read Along with Biblio
  • “Really, who doesn’t like Jane Yolen’s picture books? She’s one of my favorites and one of her newest, The Scarecrow’s Dance, tells a magical story of how a simple wind can turn a hay-stuffed scarecrow into a fantastical dance. . . Such a sweet, simple, rhyming story, but one with such a satisfying ending. Illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline does such a magnificent job at creating the night scenes. He definitely enhances the magic Yolen creates with her story, given the scarecrow a true character.”– A Patchwork of Books blog
  • “The Scarecrow’s Dance is one of my favorite rhyming books. When an old scarecrow leaves his post in the corn field to dance the night away, he encounters something he never expected. . .Yolen touches on family, joy, and duty in this magical tale of a dancing scarecrow. The scarecrow is an great example of how one can get restless doing what he/she is supposed to do. The scarecrow has grown bored on his post and needs to get away for a while. He does so by dancing. . . When the scarecrow realizes that he is needed at his post for the sake of his family (a family that cares very much for him), he feels a renewed sense of joy and pride in a job that he earlier felt was less important that self-satisfaction (dancing). Children will realize that helping family, or anyone else, might not be the most fun thing in the world, but it feels good to help someone who needs you. . . The dark colors of the first few pages accurately portray twilight and the coolness of nighttime, but leave enough color to make the reader feel joy when the scarecrow takes off dancing. The contrast of the colors when the scarecrow looks in on the praying boy is amazing. The boy’s entire room is filled with warmth and love while the scarecrow stands cold, but illuminated. My absolute favorite illustration is the pages when the scarecrow is leaping into the sky to position himself back on his pole. It is a bug’s eye view of the scarecrow leaping into the air and the color, composition, and details are absolutely perfect. I have a feeling that even careful attention was paid in placing the stars in the sky. I liked this book so much that I shared it with my nephews who are both under 3. They loved the book. The younger nephew repeated the rhyming words and the older nephew seemed to look at the barnyard illustration for hours. When the nephews visited a few days ago their first request was to read the “ska-cow” book again. And again we did. And again. And again. And again…”–Booking It
  • Best All-Around Picture Book: THE SCARECROW’S DANCE. By Jane Yolen. Simon & Schuster. Ages 4-8. $16.99. Rhythmic, captivating and full of incredible illustrations, this sweet book about a scarecrow finding his place in the world is a keeper.” Winston-Salem Journal
  • “Warm, comforting and homespun, this tale reminds us that we each have a special purpose that only we can fulfill.”–