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Review of Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

frost_stopping by woods on a snowy eveningStopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost; illustrated by Susan Jeffers
32 pp. Dutton 1978 ISBN 0-525-40115-6 $7.95

A beautiful picture book, handsomely designed, which is obviously an inspired creation. The illustrator, working with artistry and skill and reflecting both the wintry atmosphere and the natural serenity of the poem, has made double-page spreads in which intricate patterning is balanced by an elegant plainness of coloration: shades of gray upon white with only occasional touches of pale green, yellowish brown, and blue. An illustrator, like a composer, librettist, or choreographer, has the right, of course, to produce a highly personal interpretation of a literary work. But it is often questioned whether an explicit line-by-line pictorial representation of a lyrical — not a narrative — poem may constrain a child’s imagination and interfere with his or her response to poetic ambiguity—the spontaneous formation of images in the mind. Moreover, a spare but suggestive simplicity characterizes the famous poem; in Frost’s volume New Hampshire (Holt) it is one of a group of verses called Grace Notes, which contain some of his most haunting and quietly eloquent writing. The picture-book jacket states that a “kindly rotund figure…lends both humor and a Christmas feeling that should greatly enhance the enjoyment of the book.” And it is precisely those additional elements — as well as a certain homely sentimentality — that seem incongruous with the poet’s essential reticence. ETHEL L. HEINS

From the April 1979 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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