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by Helen Frost

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: April 10th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-31776-8
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Diamond Willow, a young Alaskan of Athabascan and European descent, doesn’t have many friends; she’s happiest when she’s sledding her father’s dogs and visiting her grandparents. When her first solo dogsled trip to her grandparents ends with a terrible crash that blinds her father’s favorite dog, Roxy, she sets to making sure that Roxy will live out her days with care and not undergo euthanasia—a decision that leads to an amazing revelation about her family. Frost presents her story in a series of poems in Willow’s voice, using a form inspired by the marks on a diamond willow stick; roughly diamond-shaped and no two exactly alike, each contains a “hidden message” printed in boldface that spans several lines and encapsulates the poem. It’s a novel idea, and largely works quite well. Less effective are interstitial narratives in the voices of the characters’ ancestors, who take part in the story as animals. This device, although integrated into the narrative as a whole, serves to distract the reader from the quiet power of Willow’s story. Flawed, but not fatally so. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)