THE MARZIPAN MOON by Nancy Willard


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Willard's version of the homily that humble objects are best concerns a poor priest whose birthday brings no gifts of food from his parishioners. Holding the cracked clay pot he did receive from one, the priest idly wishes that he could have a new marzipan moon every morning. From that day on he has; and though the pot grants no further wishes, he's happy enough with that--until the Bishop visits and insists on spying on the pot. The main chance for author and artist comes here, and both make something of it, but what? Willard has two almonds emerge from the pot and, from them, two creatures made of gargoyle heads, fire-wood arms, flour sack bodies, and muffler legs. These odd creatures produce the marzipan with a ""God bless [everyone]"" chant (this satisfies the Bishop that they are not from the devil)--but their peculiar, insect-like appearance is less benign. What happens then is unsurprising: the Bishop, who wants the marzipan, discards the clay pot and has a splendid gold-and-silver casket made for the almonds and placed on the main altar of the cathedral. Needless to say, that's the end of the marzipan. Willard tells the story fluently and Sewall gives it an agreeable church-poor look. However, even if marzipan on the altar can be seen as amusingly in-congruous instead of just farfetched, the almond creatures are representative of the whole: the parts, though suggestive and sometimes striking, don't cohere with the unconscious necessity of a seasoned folk tale.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich