Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight
Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll. This is the book you guys chose for me to cover next! Random fact: this was my very first Goosebumps book in fifth grade. My brother and I used to visit my mom every other weekend, and I have a vivid memory of her surprising us one Friday evening with a Goosebumps book each. I got this, and my brother got Say Cheese and Die! Fortunately for me, my brother wasn’t much of a reader, so I ended up with both Goosebumps books, and my love for this series was born.
This entry is dedicated to Cherri on Twitter and Banana at the Goosebumps Wiki (who is just a little obsessed with scarecrows ;)). I was going to read this book after the book that won the poll if this book didn’t win because they both have been requesting that I cover it, but I guess it’s a popular entry in the series. I appreciate all the messages people have been sending me about these reviews. Keep them coming! I love that people are enjoying these.
Alright, off we go to a creepy farm. As always, my reviews are littered with spoilers. Avoid this entry if you intend to read this book!
I absolutely love the original cover for this book. I think it’s one of the strongest covers in the series. So much works for it. That scarecrow looks terrifying. It doesn’t take a lot to make scarecrows scary, because they are naturally terrifying, but Tim Jacobus clearly put in the effort. I like the sticks poking out of the shirt as arms, even if straw makes up the arms in the book. They’re unsettling. The starry sky and full moon add to the scary atmosphere. I like how the moon lights up the green shirt of the scarecrow, and of course it’s green. Here is yet another instance of green encasing something evil in Goosebumps.
I like the burgundy and gold color scheme surrounding the painting. The colors work together well and fit well with a story about a farm.
Tagline: It’s a field of screams!
This is one of the better (and more creative) taglines in the series as well!
This title was brought back for the Classic Goosebumps series and got another cover. It doesn’t work as well for me as the original cover for several reasons. The jack-o-lantern face, while interesting, isn’t in the book and feels cheesy. The full moon in the original cover was atmospheric, and it’s missing in this cover. I do like that straw can be seen coming out the scarecrow’s sleeves and hat. That’s more consistent with the book, but again, the effort is wasted by including the random jack-o-lantern head.
My friend Rosy and I discussed the differences between the newer and older Goosebumps covers pretty recently, and she informed me of something interesting: some publishers are requesting that cover artists not use black, and that may be the case with the newer Goosebumps covers. There are all kinds of reasons they may request that black not be used, like black can be too frightening for kids, it costs more to print, etc., none of which I can discuss with any validity; I just don’t know enough about the industry to go too deep into it, but I do find it interesting. Perhaps because of that, this cover is much brighter than the original, and as such, it’s cartoony, a complaint I’ve mentioned about these covers in previous entries.
Sadly and simply, the newer cover just is not scary. It wouldn’t make me pick up the book like the original did.
Jodie and her younger brother Mark are visiting their grandparents for the summer. They spend a month each summer on their grandparents’ farm. The story is narrated by Jodie, who has such nice things to say about every single other character. She calls her brother Mark slow and lazy. She says he literally knows three words: cool, weird, and gross. She calls her grandparents’ farmhand, Stanley, who is picking them up, slow (which, okay, he is). She points out that Stanley’s son Sticks (yes, that’s his name) doesn’t wash his hair. She calls her grandmother Miriam “plump.” She talks about how handsome her grandfather Kurt used to be when he was younger, like he’s not handsome now. Oh, Regina George, I mean Jodie.
Stanley is bucket loads of fun. On the way to the farm he points out a dead guy’s farm just to tell the kids he died. He then decides to scare the bejeezus out of the kids by telling them that “the scarecrow walks at midnight,” as they drive up on the farm and see new scarecrows everywhere. It’s a completely random line that confuses both Jodie and the reader.
Jodie’s grandparents run out to hug the kids. Wait, no, Jodie uses very specific language for Grandma Miriam here: she came “waddling out.” Jodie’s grandpa asks Jodie why she has blonde hair since no one else in her family does, and insists she must have gotten it from a store. No, Grandpa Kurt, not the store; probably the mailman. Grandma Miriam serves the kids lunch, and then they go on a tour of the farm with Stanley. Mark mentions that they have seen the farm at least a hundred times and don’t need another tour, but Jodie insists it’s “tradition.” If Jodie wasn’t such a mean girl in how she describes everyone, I would think she’s a genuinely good, family-oriented person from that comment.
Stanley shows the kids his scarecrows and throws out the titular line again. He made the scarecrows with “the book,” which we later find out is a superstitions book, probably with spells. He admits to making the scarecrows walk, which Jodie just brushes off for some reason and never thinks of again even though she sees scarecrows moving throughout the book. Maybe Stine wanted to push Jodie as a dumb blonde, but come on Regina George, I mean Jodie: Stanley is no good.
Jodie and Mark notice that their grandparents have changed. Grandpa Kurt doesn’t tell scary stories anymore, and Grandma Miriam no longer makes her famous pancakes. The kids are served cornflakes for breakfast each day which, let me quote, practically makes Jodie “burst into tears.” First world problems. Despite noticing the many changes, what Jodie does not see or comprehend is her grandparents kissing Stanley’s butt. I picked up on the fact that he is responsible for these changes in the first couple of chapters! Come on, Regin–Jodie!
Jodie sees the scarecrows move again and again. At first through her upstairs bedroom window, then at the creek where she, Mark, and Stanley went to fish, then the barn, and then a scarecrow literally jumps out in front of her while she’s horseback riding, causing her and Mark to fall off their horses. Jodie is convinced the moving scarecrows are the work of Sticks, Stanley’s sixteen-year-old son. Sticks dressed as a scarecrow and jumped out to scare Jodie and Mark at the beginning of the book, and Jodie insists he is still trying to scare them. No way it could be Stanley with his weird superstitions book, his weird practices (he made the kids circle the barn three times on his way to the creek because his book mandated it), or his completely suspect way of asking Jodie and Mark not to mention the moving scarecrows to their Grandpa Kurt. Nah, Stanley’s a doll.
Jodie and Mark discover torches, kerosene, burlap masks, and scarecrow clothing inside the barn. They decide it’s time to get back at Sticks, even though he’s clearly not responsible here! It’s Stanley, Regi-Jodi! No, they don’t decide to torch the guest house Sticks is living in with his father. They decide to dress Mark up as a scarecrow. After dressing him, putting a burlap mask over his head, and sufficiently stuffing him with straw, Jodie instructs Mark to wait out in the field while she goes and gets Sticks. Reg–Jodie wrestles with how to get Sticks out of the house without freaking out the sweet, sensitive Stanley.
Once she gets to the guest house, she sees a scarecrow approaching her, which she naturally assumes is Mark and yells for Mark to go back into the field. The porch light comes on and Sticks comes out. He decapitates the scarecrow, that wasn’t Mark!, and saves Jodie. Sticks explains to Jodie that Stanley made the scarecrows walk with his book, and that he put the scarecrows back to sleep with the book at the urging of her grandparents. He complied, but only if they agreed to several of his demands. (What! No way! I did not see this coming!!!!!!!!)
I have issue with this not only because Stanley blackmailed Jodie’s grandparents, but because he worked for them for over twenty years! He was living with his son in their guest house! He ate dinner with them as family! Jodie’s grandparents had treated him really well! What the heck, Stanley?!
Sticks said unfortunately, not all of the scarecrows went back to sleep.
Stanley comes out to investigate the ruckus, sees the decapitated scarecrow on the ground, and starts freaking out. He runs out to the cornfield with his book, determined to put the scarecrows back to sleep. Sticks and Jodie convince him that the scarecrow he saw on the ground wasn’t alive — Sticks just dropped it, and Stanley calms down. Mark naturally chooses that moment to come walking out of the field in his scarecrow costume.
Stanley runs further into the crops and wakes up the remaining scarecrows. The scarecrows start descending on him, Jodie, Mark, and Sticks. The kids and Stanley all run to Jodie’s grandparents’ house, and Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Miriam come out on the porch to see what’s happening. The scarecrows continue to descend upon the family.
Grandpa Kurt and Grandma Miriam demand to know what their grandchildren did to upset Stanley. They say they worked so hard to make him happy, and now look. Way to go, Re–Jodie.
Stanley yells to the family that the scarecrows won’t obey him. He doesn’t understand what is happening.
Jodie sneezes and causes Mark to jump. The scarecrows surrounding the family all jump. The family realize that the scarecrows think Mark is a scarecrow, and not only that, but they think he’s their leader! He plays a quick game of Simon Says with them, and then pulls his mask off, causing all of the scarecrows in the circle to pull off their heads and throw them on the ground.
Alas, the scarecrows don’t die. The headless bodies continue circling in on the family. Jodie looks around and realizes that Sticks is no longer with them. He conveniently shows up with two lit torches and saves the day. The irony is not lost on me that Sticks kills the scarecrows with sticks. The scarecrows burn to the ground.
Everything is back to normal. Jodie is sitting alone in the house with Stanley. He is reading his superstition book while she– wait, why didn’t anyone take that book away from him? Jodie describes Stanley as “gentle,” and happily listens to his murmuring as the stuffed bear in the family’s living room comes alive, looks at Jodie, licks its lips, and growls.
I’m going to be honest: I was kind of dreading this book. It bored me as a kid, but having read it just now, I think I might have been too young to really appreciate it back then. I enjoyed it today. I found it to be well-written and fun. While I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorites, I can see why so many of you love this book.
I found the following passages especially remarkable and highlighted them to share with you here.
I like to watch the tall stalks of corn, all swaying together in the wind.
We were so eager for the famous pancakes, we were practically rubbing our hands together the way cartoon characters do. Imagine our shock when Grandma Miriam set down big bowls of cornflakes in front of us. I practically burst into tears.
Grandpa Kurt always called Betsy and Maggie “the old gray mares.” I guess because they were both old and they were both gray.