The books I call fairy tales (The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Clockwork, and I Was A Rat!) are some of my favourites. Now there’s a new one. The Scarecrow and his Servant tells the story of – well, what else would it be about but a scarecrow and his servant?
I won’t tell you the story here, because I’d like you to read the book; but I can say a little about the atmosphere. Each of the other fairy tales has had a particular setting. The Firework-Maker’s Daughter belongs to a magical sort of Indonesia; Clockwork belongs to a dark and snowbound Germany of about two hundred years ago; I Was A Rat! is firmly in the world of Cinderella.
The Scarecrow and his Servant, though, belongs to Italy. If it were set to music, it would be played on mandolins, and be in the rhythm of a tarantella. The eccentric Scarecrow and his little servant Jack wander about having adventures, and trying to earn a living, and find somewhere to settle, and escape the clutches of the rascally Buffaloni family. The Scarecrow is the master, but it’s quite clear that Jack is the only one with any sense. The book is full of sunshine, and it’s funny; at least, I hope it is, because I was certainly laughing as I wrote it, and I don’t think I’m going mad.
The pictures are by Peter Bailey, who has now done all my other fairy tales. They’ve just been re-issued in paperback, looking beautiful.