Children’s Fiction of 2008: Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Alaska is a popular subject these days, courtesy of you-know-who, so maybe this book, set in rural Alaska, will ride the wave of Alaska-love, especially if Sarah Palin happens to become Vice President of the United States.

Unfortunately, this verse novel didn’t do much for me. Diamond Willow is a twelve year old part-Athabascan girl: “In the middle of my family in the middle of a middle-size town in the middle of Alaska, you will find middle-size, middle-kid, me.” She finds it difficult to make friends, and her father’s dogs are her best friends.

“Most of the story is told in diamond-shaped poems, with a hidden message printed in darker ink at the center of each one.” I found this layout gimmicky and distracting. I would start reading the diamond-shaped poem on a page, and then get distracted by the bold print “message”, and then have to go back and start reading the page all over again to get the gist of the plot. It was not an effective way to read a story.

Then there was the reincarnation/ancestor guides aspect of the story which was also not my cup of tea. If you like or believe that sort of thing, Diamond Willow might be just the book for you. If not, then not.

And other bloggers say:

Jennifer Schulz at The Kiddosphere@Farquier: “Diamond Willow is not a book that will appeal to a broad audience; for those that enjoy quiet and thoughtful reads, it will be a memorable experience.”

Bill at Literate Lives: “The story is filled with fantastic language and description. Helen Frost has captured the drama and teen angst of middle school in very few words.”

Fuse 8: “Diamond Willow aims younger than Frost’s usual teenaged fare. Examining the relationship between a girl and her sled dog, Frost combines her standard intelligent wordplay with a story that will catch in the throats of dog lovers and people lovers alike.”

Helen Frost’s website.

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