Diamond Willow

by Helen Frost

Twelve-year-old Willow’s first solo dogsledding trip starts joyfully, with... read more

Twelve-year-old Willow’s first solo dogsledding trip starts joyfully, with a twelve-mile journey to her grandparents’ cabin. It ends tragically when Rosy, the beloved lead dog, is blinded on the way back home after running into a fallen tree on a curve where Willow failed to slow down. Willow’s shame and guilt turn to anger when she realizes that her parents plan on putting Rosy down. She considers Rosy her friend and confidant, and friendship doesn’t come easily for Willow. Willow also hasn’t given up hope that Rosy will see again. Sure that her grandparents will let Rosy stay with them, Willow enlists the help of her one good friend, Kaylie, to accompany her on another dogsled journey to her grandparents’ place. Poet Helen Frost’s story is set in a fictional town in Alaska’s interior. Willow is part Athabascan, and the spirits of her ancestors, embodied in a host of wild creatures, play a critical role when Willow and Kaylie end up lost in a blizzard. Each of Frost’s narrative, concrete poems—all variations on a diamond shape—have a hidden message emphasized in boldface type. They are the essence of feeling in each poem, just as the animals in Frost’s story are the essence of a loved one. The revelation of a secret kept far too long brings the story to a rich emotional climax that affirms Rosy’s place in Willow’s heart and family and encourages Willow to open her heart to happiness and let others in. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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