Rummanah Aasi
  I never heard of a Diamond Willow before I read Helen Frost's book of the same name. Diamond willow is actually a tree that grows diamond-shaped cankers in response to a fungus. It is highly prized by wood carvers and furniture makers for it's contrasting colors and it's irregular shape. Thus it makes sense that Frost's Diamond Willow is composed of poems in the various shapes of diamonds that demonstrate family roots and an exciting survival adventure.

Description: Willow has lived all her life in interior Alaska. At twelve years old, she feels she is old enough to mush the family sled dogs twelve miles to her grandparents' house on her own, but an accident on the way home leaves her favorite dog, Roxy, blind. When Willow reads a note written by her mother indicating a grave vet appointment where a blanket for a body is needed, she immediately enlists a friend's help to transport Roxy back to her grandparents for safe-keeping. Snowy weather causes them to spend the night outdoors. The experience reveals Willow's maturity as well as a family secret.

Review: I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about the Athapascan Indians's culture. Willow's plight to be seen by her family, especially in her father's eyes is true and realistic. Readers who aren't familiar with novel in verse format, will not be intimidated by the easy, readable short poems with great imagery, character development, and strong emotion are written in diamond shapes mirroring the pattern of a diamond willow wood. In each poem there are words in the bold font, which hold an additional nugget of meaning. At important intervals, the narrative is continued in the voices of her ancestors, who take the form of animal spirits. Frost's novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters along with a great dog and dogsled story.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen



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