The Scarecrow Walks…and Teaches Art! Maybe. A Review of “The Stranger and the Scarecrow” by Brooks Healey, Illustrated by Bill Negron
When I first began seriously collecting scary books for children/juvenile audiences, I was in 11th grade. I already had a small stack of scary books from my childhood that I coveted and, after visiting a local library book sale, I decided to add to my collection. From that book sale, I bought fifty books (at least) all for six bucks. It was a bag sale day, and it served as my first lesson in collecting these often neglected pieces of fright fiction.
Go on bag sale days, and only bag sale days, because the majority of the public couldn’t care less about the books you’re buying. That’s good news because you stand a good chance of not only saving a lot of money, but finding some real treasures!
One of the treasures I found at that first book sale was a little tale written by Brooks Healey and Illustrated by Bill Negron titled “The Stranger and the Scarecrow” put out by Readers Digest in 1978.
It’s the kind of children’s book I imagine David Lynch would read his small daughter, with its strange and quirky premise of an art teacher (who may be a screaming scarecrow) that lives in an old decrepit house on a hill putting earrings on ears of corn, painting her front steps to look like the jaws of a dragon and cutting eyes in her “window shades”.
It’s a book with a spooky sense of humor that describes the kind of individual David Lynch is — an artist who not only creates art, but embodies art in his everyday life, i.e. living the art life.
Sure, it’s never mentioned that this somewhat sinister scarecrow woman drinks black coffee or smokes cigarettes (thankfully), but she certainly pays for her art —or is it her condition? We’re not sure if she lives alone in an old house, possibly as a scarecrow, because she wants to or needs to. Is she truly human? Is she half-scarecrow, half-hominid?
No one knows for sure. Not Timmy who pays the scarecrow woman a visit twice only to be scared away by a horrid scream and the dart of a figure returning to the garden patch (where the scarecrow presides). Not the reader who follows Timmy as he races back to the old house after school, intent on proving that the art teacher he just had is in fact the same woman who gave her ears of corn earrings and who has a scarecrow that looks (and dresses) just like her.
We’re only left with a wink. A wink that, like the book, dares us to use that weird and spooky part of our imaginations that David Lynch employs on a daily basis.
“The Stranger and the Scarecrow” by Brooks Healey and illustrated by Bill Negron is a strange little book with fantastic illustrations and a fantastic little story that may very well send a few chills and a few giggles up young readers’ spines. I recommend you head to your nearest library, book seller or book sale and try to track this book down. No library of fright fiction for young people should be without its peculiar charm.