This is a sweet little picture book, perfect for early readers. The language is simple, the sentences short, and the story engaging. Gauri and her mother are making and putting up scarecrows in the field, to keep their crop safe from birds. Gauri, the little girl, wants to dress up the scarecrows in her own fine clothes, but her mother explains that scarecrows are meant to be scary, and therefore, have to be dressed in tattered clothes. The mother is a refreshing character, happily willing to play with her child, make silly faces and giggle. She seems as willing to gambol as she is to protect and comfort.
Vyas’ illustrations really work for this story – the cartoonish character of the faces is offset by the softness and enormous detailing in the illustrations. The colours are warm and earthy, complimenting the landscape perfectly.
The rest of the story follows Gauri’s vision of the scarecrows coming to life; a la Enid Blyton or Toy Story. The scarecrows are actually sad to be in raggedy clothes all the time, and decide to have a little costume party with the clothes hanging on the clothesline. In all their revelry though, the crops lay forgotten, and as Gauri watches in horror, huge flocks of birds greedily attack and devour their grain. Gauri screams as loudly as she can… is it all a dream? Or is it… something more?
Padamsee has told a neat story. Nothing fancy or elaborate, but this is a tale that lends itself to plenty of imagination. While I enjoyed it very much, I do have to confess this much: the whole idea of animated scarecrows whirling around like dervishes seems kind of creepy to me. That, and the Hitchcock-esque bird army. The story makes no such suggestion, but I feel compelled to issue a warning anyway. But, on the whole, The Scarecrows on Parade is not at all a bad pick.
By Anjana Raghavan
Author: Shamin Padamsee
Illustrator: Tanaya Vyas
Pratham Books 2014
Subject category: Contemporary/Fantasy