Sunday, August 23, 2009

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Main Character: 12-year-old Willow
Location: Alaska
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Books in Verse

This was a really lovely book about a young girl struggling to grow up, and making mistakes along the way.

Willow lives in a remote part of Alaska and spends most of her time with her dad's sled dog team. She desperately wants her parents to see that she is grown up and responsible enough to drive a small sled with one dog by herself for an overnight trip to her grandparents' home. She is finally allowed to do so, and arrives safely there. In high spirits on her return trip, she allows the dogs to run fast and doesn't see the fallen tree until it is too late. Her beloved Roxy runs into one of the branches and seriously injures her eye. Willow takes care of her as best she can, but is wracked by guilt and the fear that her parents will have Roxy put to sleep.

The story is told in different voices. When Willow is speaking, the text is written in verse that takes a diamond shape. In the center of the diamond are certain words in bold print--a hidden message revealing Willow's deepest thoughts. Other sections are narrated by the various animals who witness the events, and who are actually the spirits of Willow's Athapascan ancestors watching over her.

This is a slender book that doesn't take long to read, but it touched me deeply and at times brought me to tears.

Diamond Willow is on the 2009-2010 Lone Star Reading list.

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