Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE PIANO by William Miller Kirkus Star

THE PIANO

By William Miller (Author) , Susan Keeter (Illustrator)

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-880000-98-9
Publisher: Lee & Low

In this gentle story set in the early 1900s, music brings a young African-American girl and an elderly white woman together. Tia searches for the sounds of music as she wanders the streets of her southern town during the summer while her parents work. One day, in the white section of town she hears a recording that transports her to a place of castles and snow. She meets Johnny, who mistakenly thinks she has come about a maid’s job. Tia agrees to meet the woman of the house, who is willing to hire the young girl. Tia works hard and shows interest in learning to play the piano. Miss Hartwell, despite her stiff hands, begins to teach her. Miller (Night Golf, 1999, etc.) lightly touches on segregation and contrasts Tia’s caring attitude toward Miss Hartwell to Johnny’s—“All white people’s money is the same. I don’t care which I get it from”—but the story emphasizes a relationship that transcends age and class. Keeter’s oil paintings enhance the gentle mood. Two-page spreads make space for the pictures to illustrate the text and expand the setting. A scene showing Tia dancing to the music of a blues guitar in front of a general store also gives a picture of the poor part of town. Interior scenes of Miss Hartwell’s house give a sense of a well-to-do residence, while close ups of Tia and Miss Hartwell show the growing love between the two. A lovely book with an understated message. (Picture book. 4-8)