07 October 2010

Diamond Willow Review for TWU course

Frost, Helen. 2008. DIAMOND WILLOW.  New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Girouox.  ISBN 978-0-374-31776-8.

Willow is a 12 year old girl in Alaska who is trying to find herself.  She sees nothing special in herself and wants to prove to her parents that she is grown and can mush the dogs responsibly.  On the trip to her grandparents, there is an incident which sparks a dramatic change in Willow.

The most surprising thing to me about this book was that it is in the poetry category for the class.  It is nothing like poetry I have read before and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I want to toss open the doors to the library I work in and shout to the town to read this book.  It is not a thick book and the words per page are sparse but pack a punch.  Willow's words are in the shape of a Diamond Willow scar and within the shape formed, are bolded words that form a separate message, which I often found to be an even stronger message than all the other words on the page.  Some sections of the book were told by animals, which were reincarnates of Willow's family and friends.  

The entire book circled around and completed itself with all its interlocking parts that put me in awe at Ms. Frost's ability to tell a wonderful story while imparting the culture and ways of the Alaskan people, as well as a young girl growing up and accepting responsibility and maturity.  I happened to read this book about 5 weeks ago so that I would get all my reading for the class done and the impact it has made on me still resonates. 

Texas LoneStar Award 2009 
BOOKLIST"Frost, who spent years teaching in Alaska, blends the young teen’s viewpoint with a strong sense of place and culture. The casual diamond shape of the poems reflects how precious jewels of wisdom can grow around painful scars. Willow’s bond with Roxy is the heart of the tale."

Starred Review from BULLETIN for Center of Children's books:  "Frost invents an ingenious poetic form for her story that is both stable and fluid; like the diamond willow branches that she is imitating, the diamond shapes of her poems vary. . . . Frost has spun metaphoric gold out of an evocative natural landscape, and she knows just how to craft it into an elegant and moving story of a young girl's deepening understanding of the relationships she shares with those around her."

Definitely worth pairing with traditional poetry books for a compare and contrast lesson in forms poetry takes.  It could also be introduced as supplemental material for a unit on Alaska or dog sledding. 

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