Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Nancy Pearl says there are four doorways into books; story, character, setting and language. It is the last of these that beckoned me into Diamond Willow.

Helen Frost sets the bar high for verse novelists. Two of the author's earlier books, Keesha's House and The Braid would be included on my list of the very best verse novels published... if I was to compile such a list.

The pages of Diamond Willow are visually stunning, with each poem shaped like the markings that give diamond willow its name. And like the scar where a limb falls, causing the pattern on diamond willow to form, there is a hidden message in each poem in bold font.

It's the story of a 12-year-old girl and her beloved sled dog, set in Alaska. Interspersed with the diamond-shaped poems, there are short prose pieces in the voices of various ancestors - ancestors now living in animal or bird form.

I found it a touch too sweet, but it may just be that I'm not in the mood for that today. The gentle cover illustration - a girl and a dog looking at each other - should draw in young readers who like this kind of story.

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