The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

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9780399216114: The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

A picture book version of the Millay poem, in which a poor boy's mother worries about giving him food and clothing for the winter.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 6-9-- A penniless widow and her young son burn their furniture for heat during a fierce winter in a turn-of-the-century tenement. On Christmas Eve the boy cries himself to sleep, and the mother sits down at their one remaining possession, a harp. As she plays and sings through the bitter night, the harp weaves the extravagant "clothes of a king's son." By morning the mother is "frozen dead" beside this legacy of her love. Millay's sure ballad technique balances the poem's sentimentality. The understated bond between the pair is affecting, but younger readers may find the mother's passivity puzzling, if not frightening, and the concluding fantasy confusing. What can, in the poem, be taken metaphorically, is rendered quite literally in the pictures: there is a pile of clothing, as real as the dead (though rosy-cheeked) woman. Peck's oil paintings are as sober and restrained as the somewhat morbid subject demands. By not further romanticizing the poem, Peck counters its melodrama, but the realism of the pictures makes the fantasy jarring. Good in themselves, the illustrations diminish the symbolic dimension of the ballad. --Patricia Dooley, University of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

In Millay's disturbing poem, an unseen, adult narrator tells of his harsh childhood and how his widowed mother tried to stay cheerful for her son's sake. The two live in a bare room in the midst of a busy town, and the mother bemoans the fact that the boy has no suitable clothing. But as time passes, they suffer through a severe winter--and slowly starve. Their last possession is a "harp with a woman's head / Nobody would take, / For song or pity's sake." On Christmas Eve, the boy sees his mother weaving magnificent, child-size clothing in the harp strings. But in the morning light he finds her, "A smile about her lips, / And a light about her head, / And her hands in the harp strings / Frozen dead." The poem is an odd choice as the basis of a children's book, ending as it does with every child's worst fear. (A note by the poet's executor presents the verse as Millay's tribute to her own mother.) Peck's ( The Silver Whistle ) oil paintings present a pretty picture of poverty: the faun-like child has roses in his cheeks and a neat haircut throughout (though his mother lacks shears). It's difficult to imagine where this book will find an audience. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay
Published by Philomel (1991)
ISBN 10: 0399216111 ISBN 13: 9780399216114
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Book Description Philomel, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Beth Peck (illustrator). book. Bookseller Inventory # M0399216111

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Edna St. Vincent Millay
Published by Philomel (1991)
ISBN 10: 0399216111 ISBN 13: 9780399216114
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Book Description Philomel, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110399216111

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Millay, Edna St. Vincent
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ISBN 10: 0399216111 ISBN 13: 9780399216114
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