Friday, September 17, 2010

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Speaking of award books do you know which book should have won ALL THE AWARDS* and actually won none** of the awards? Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. I recommended it for the Battle of the Books that my library helps with and it got chosen for this year so I get to spend extra time with it which makes me beyond happy! Diamond Willow is a beautiful book - I wanted to spend forever in this world with these characters! Lucky for me despite how short this book is, it is an easy book to savor. It invites the reader to go back over every page and really let that poem sink in.

*Ok, not all of the awards - Diamond Willow came out in 2008 and y'all know how I feel about The Graveyard Book, but if I can't use hyperbole in my own blog then where can I?

**actually while writing this review I've realized that it did win some awards - but it should have won MORE!

I didn't think I would like Diamond Willow when I first picked it up. Books written in poetry tend to be gimmicky (and yes, I know there are obvious and lovely exceptions to this) but Diamond Willow is anything but gimmicky and should not be disregarded because of the poetry. When Willow (the main character and main narrator) is narrating the book, each page is a poem. Hidden within each poem is a set of words in bold that creates another found sentence. It's hard to explain but if you see it you'll understand. Go check out the first 16 pages on FSG's website and you'll see. The hidden sentence explains more - the hidden meaning that Diamond is unwilling to say outright.

Very simply, Diamond Willow is about a 12 year old girl, Willow, who takes the sled dogs out in a storm to see her grandparents without her parent's permission and she gets caught in a storm. Willow is part Athabascan and her heritage comes into play as other narrators take over the book briefly because she is being watched over by the animals that are her ancestors. Can I tell you about how much I love that? There are so few books out there where Native people are shown living modern lives that are still rich in their cultural heritage. Diamond Willow neither shuffles the Athabascans off into the history books nor does it make Willow's heritage just a quirk - it is still a very real part of her life, her traditions, who she is.

I will never do this book justice in my review. You need to go read it. Now, please.

Diamond Willow will work especially well for girls in 4th grade and up who like thoughtful books, adventure books, nature books, books about dogs, books about snow - or really just good books.

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