Leo Lionni didn't start writing children's books until he had retired from his official profession as an art director. He was fifty years old when he wrote his first children's book,Little Blue and Little Yellow. He wrote a total of thirty-nine more books over the next thirty-five years - not too shabby for a retiree, eh?
Lionni's illustrations are immediately recognizable and of course, he became a huge influence on other young illustrators. As Lionni was always interested in nature as a child, most of his books prominently feature animals and the great outdoors.
This is a book about problem solving and compromise. A farmer is proud of his field of wheat. Having worked hard, he is anxious to harvest his crops. Little does he know that there are six winged deterrents perched in his way. A dozen noisy crows cluster in a nearby tree, also anxious to help themselves to the farmer's hard work. The black bodied birds swoop down into the field just as wheat is about to ripen.
The farmer chases the crows away, only to have them return. To trick them, he puts together a fearsome looking scarecrow, that holds a large stick in one hand. The birds devise a plan, striking back with their own equally fearsome looking bird kite. Both terrified and furious, the farmer retaliates by adding a second, larger scarecrow next to the first, this one with two sword and a very angry mouth. The birds amp up their creation. And so on, both sides getting angrier. It takes a wise owl (those birds always play the wise role, don't they?) who has been watching the proceedings to talk some sense into both parties before the wheat wilts.
The farmer and the crows all realize it is better for everyone to make peace and come to an agreement. At first they had feared it was too late to make peace, but the owl reassurred them that it was "never too late to talk things over." That's a wise owl, indeed. The wheat is saved ad the owl transforms the angry scarecrow into a friendly one.