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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children,
Muriel had a strong opinion about many issues and did not hesitate to speak her mind, even though social norms at the time still discouraged women from publically expressing their views. She despaired at the thought of her dear friend Frank and thousands of other young American men going off to fight in the Great War. She also admired her Aunt Vera's brave fight in the women's suffrage movement for women to gain the right to vote. And although she was nearing the end of her teenage years, Muriel bristled at expectations that she soon get married and settle down to a life of raising children and doing household work.
So much changed when Frank left for Europe, and when her own brother Ollie lied about his age in order to enlist and fight in the war. Women across the country, including Muriel's own mother, took on new jobs that had hitherto been considered the domain of men. Muriel was left doing an extraordinary amount of work at home "for the duration," all the while praying for Frank and Ollie's safety and continuing to question the necessity and wisdom of the war. It would take more life-altering events, including a surprise visit to the suffragists' picket lines in Washington DC and the spread of influenza to her own family, for Muriel to make some important decisions about her own place in this tumultuous world.
Told in carefully-structured verse, this novel tells a mesmerizing story about a strong-minded young woman struggling to speak out at a time when women could not vote for the politicians who made decisions about war and about the loved ones who fought in that war. Through her poems, Helen Frost provides a unique way of seeing the main characters' thoughts as well as the economic and political forces shaping their lives.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: CROSSING STONES,
"I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, looking for the key to set me free" -- Joni Mitchell
From what I've gotten to know of Muriel Jorgensen, I somehow get the feeling that she would really be into Joni Mitchell.
Muriel's a contemplative young woman who clearly has taken her studies seriously. She has been connecting dots, experiencing some a-ha moments, and paying attention to her radical Aunt Vera, who is a working woman over in Chicago.
Muriel is perceiving some serious inconsistencies between the good line that the President who has taken us into war talks, in regard to the undemocratic behavior of those countries that we consider enemies, and what is actually going on here at home, in so-called democratic America.
Is it really unpatriotic to speak out in dissent during wartime, to accuse the President of being no better than our enemies? Is it a slap in the face to Americans in uniform?
CROSSING STONES is the story of four teenagers and two interconnected families -- the Jorgensens and the Normans -- living on adjoining farms that are separated by a creek and joined by crossing stones. But the borders of Muriel's idyllic Midwest farm life are breached when the news that young men are getting sent to war hits home for both families. Before you know it, Muriel's underage brother, Ollie, and next door neighbor Frank Norman have both gone overseas. Meanwhile, there are protests and arrests in the nation's capital and, to top it all off, there are signs of an impending flu pandemic.
But there is no Joni Mitchell for Muriel, because CROSSING STONES is set ninety years ago during the Great War when "W" stood for Wilson, and the protests outside the White House gates, in which Muriel's Aunt Vera is participating and for which she is getting arrested, focus on women demanding the right of self-determination -- the right to vote.
(Thank goodness things are so much better now in 2009, as we wait to see whether there will actually be a second woman seated on the U.S. Supreme Court before the only one there now is forced to retire for health reasons.)
CROSSING STONES is a great piece of historical fiction and a great coming of age story with some big surprises, some hints of budding romance, some tragedy, a hunger strike, and The Flu.
But this is Helen Frost writing, so that is all just the beginning of the story.
One of my oldest, dearest friends in the world is a craftsperson who knits sweaters that are works of art and, now and again, works in various other artistic media. I have witnessed the time and focus and planning and more time that goes into the execution of her finished projects. It is a process of which I am in awe.
It is that process that I think of when I look at how Helen Frost crafts one of her verse novels to be both a great story and a perfectly-worded poetic work of art.
CROSSING STONES is a verse novel featuring three narrators: Muriel, her brother Ollie, and her best friend, Frank's sister Emma. As explained in her author's note:
"I've created a formal structure to give the sense of stepping from stone to stone across a flowing creek...The relatively free style of Muriel's poems represents the creek flowing over the stones as it pushes against its banks. Ollie's and Emma's poems represent the stones...They are 'cupped-hand sonnets,' fourteen line poems in which the first line rhymes with the last line, the second line rhymes with the second-to-last, and so on...In Ollie's poems the rhymes are the beginning words of each line, and in Emma's poems they are the end words...To give the sense of stepping from one stone to the next, I have used the middle rhyme of one sonnet as the outside rhyme of the next..."
I love when a thoughtful and well-educated young person becomes a river of change. Muriel's search for what life may offer beyond the cycle of seasons and farm chores illuminates a long-ago step in the historical quest that continues for American women today in the Twenty-first century. Throughout her travels, Muriel is so authentic and likeable in how she sometimes second-guesses herself, how she comfortably embraces her nurturing instincts while quietly and firmly rejecting her mother's antiquated thinking about women's roles, and how, in the face of chauvinistic drivel, she is a girl who is not afraid to take a punch.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War 1 From Across the Pond - Frankly Genius,
As a mother who screens everything her 11-year-old daughter reads, *our* interest in verse novels actually started with "Tofu Quilt" by Ching Yeung Russell. Other than the fact that "Crossing Stones" is also a verse novel and both are beautifully written, they couldn't be any more different. Where my (as opposed to my daughter's) enjoyment of "Tofu Quilt" was enhanced in part by my ability to appreciate rhythm in the Chinese language, "Crossing Stones" brought back memories of when I had to study Wilfred Owen's poems of World War 1 at school. The poetic forms (there are three) in which the "Crossing Stones" was written are, quite frankly, genius. If poetry can be seen as glorious painting, "Crossing Stones" is a picture in lenticular. We have, like, about five more Helen Frost's verse novels at home now, waiting to be read. I'm thrilled that said daughter's passion for poetry is looking to surpass my own. In her words,
"The book 'Crossing Stones' by Helen Frost tells an unforgettable story about two families' hardships in the First World War.
"Eighteen-year-old Muriel Jorgenson lives on one side of Crabapple Creek. Her family's closest friends, the Normans, live on the other. For as long as Muriel can remember, the family's lives have been intertwined, connected by the crossing stones in the water. However, just when Frank Norman, who Muriel thinks might be more than a friend, signs up for the war, Muriel's little brother, Ollie also runs off to sign up in the war. The families begin to collapse when Ollie returns disarmed and Frank not at all. But in the end, Muriel, Emma and Ollie find their places in life.
"My favorite part in the book was when Muriel saw Frank for the last time and he kissed her because it was so romantic and sad.
"I also liked how in the book, when Muriel was saying her thoughts they were in the form of a creek journeying on forever.
"Ollie's and Emma's poems represent the stones and to give her readers a sense of crossing the stones one by one, Frost had the middles rhymes of one sonnet rhyme with the first and the last of the next sonnet.
"I would give the book five stars. After you read the book, you'll know why."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars poetic and poignant,
This book should win an award. It is outstanding.
Beautiful poetic swathes of text reverberate with emotion as four young people from two close- knit families describe how they feel about World War I, both on the home front and on the front lines. The lyrical and moving text is presented as concrete verse and the few words are powerful. Poignant voices ask the hard questions including: "Who does God belong to, whose mighty fortress is he, if people sing that hymn in two languages, and in those same languages defend this war?" at the funeral of one of the young people. Muriel is eighteen, and in her last year of high school. Her close friend Frank enlists and is sent overseas: she is not sure how she feels about him or what she wants to do when she graduates. Her brother Ollie is underage, but he runs away from home to enlist. Her best friend Emma is Frank's younger sister, and she knows what she wants to do: she wants to marry Ollie. This is wonderful historical fiction that also feels very contemporary.
Review from personal copy.
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for historical fiction and verse fans,
Muriel is an 18 year old living in the time of WWI. Both her brother and her closest friend, neighbor, and most recently, love interest, have enlisted. While they’re off fighting the war, Muriel becomes increasingly interested in the women’s suffrage movement, despite getting into constant trouble for voicing her opinions. As tragedy strikes, Muriel decides to take a stand for what she believes in, while tending to broken hearts, including her own, at home. This is a novel told in verse.
I’ve never been one for historical fiction, but I had to read one for my YA Lit class for library school and I’m glad I chose this one! I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was all written in verse with alternating narrators, with the strongest focus on Muriel. It was a really short, fast read. I liked the simplicity of the verse format in combination with the complex story lines of life during war. It made it less heavy to read, if that makes any sense. There were several stories going on here like Muriel and the women’s suffrage movement, Muriel’s love interest, her brother’s love interest, friendship, families, tragedy… this book crammed a lot into less than 200 pages. I liked Muriel a lot as well. She had a lot of spunk and a voice of her own, unafraid to share her opinions, even if she was going against the grain. My only complaint was that the book was too short and therefore didn’t develop or expand as well as it could have on a lot of the story lines and issues, particularly Muriel’s love interest. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical YA fiction and verse novels.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book,
The language and imagery in this book was beautiful. Shows war and it's effects on soldiers and those at home. I am amazed by the format of this book and how the author told such a beautiful story with her poetry. A new favorite.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully and skillfully written,
This is a historical novel set during WWI. It is told from the points of view of Muriel, Emma, Frank, and Ollie - four friends who grew up together. They are part of two families whose land is connected by a river. Crossing Stones is a touching coming of age story which follows the boys as they go off to fight in Europe and the girls as they stay behind. Meanwhile, Muriel struggles with her beliefs about war and women's rights. The form of the poetry is symbolic visually, and the poems are beautifully and skillfully written. This is an excellent novel, and I highly recommend it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry adds real strength to this verse novel,
I loved the character of Muriel in "Crossing Stones" - her strength and determination, her need to break out of what was expected and be allowed to speak and stand up for herself. Frost has set out Muriel's poem in a zig-zag pattern on the page to signify the stream, but I think it says more - it shows how Muriel is at odds with the world.
The cupped-hand sonnets of Ollie and Emma are like the stepping stones in the stream but again, their shape also shows the characters' smaller view of the world.
The historical setting is vividly realized, as is the war and its realities, and we feel for both Muriel and Emma.
I loathe verse novels that are simply chopped-up prose - this is a terrific example of what a verse novel can do when the writer is a true poet.
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving piece of historical fiction,
Helen Frost's Crossing Stones presents the paradox of a nation fighting for democracy abroad while denying the vote for half its own citizenry during World War I. Eighteen-year-old Muriel and her brother Ollie Jorgensen live just across the creek from their closest friends, Frank and Emma Norman. The story takes place over nine months, during which Frank and Ollie enlist and fight oversees, and Muriel travels to Washington D.C. to help her suffragist aunt return to her home in Chicago after having been imprisoned for demonstrating outside the White House. The characters each make their own way through the suffering of war, the deadly flu epidemic and the belief that it was unwomanly and unpatriotic to support the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution. Muriel's courage shines through in asking tough questions, finding her own answers, refusing to accept the unacceptable, and following her heart. The novel culminates with the hope of rebirth for the survivors, their families and the nation.
Frost does with language what Michelangelo did with marble. She recognizes the true story and strips away all unnecessary words to sculpt a poetic novel of epic proportion in three voices. Emma and Ollie speak in "cupped-hand sonnets" with a subtle rhyming form that both connects them and resonates with the reader. Muriel's voice is free verse, flowing down the pages, making its way through the stone-shaped sonnets. The symbols and imagery bring an emotional depth to this unforgettably moving piece of historical fiction.
Laurie A. Gray
Reprinted from the Christian Library Journal (Vol. XIII, No. 4/5, October December 2009); used with permission.
5.0 out of 5 stars Rocking the Boat Has Never Been so Beautiful,
This book is beautiful and powerful and gentle and heartbreaking and all this just on the first page!
One of my very favorite kinds of books is this--narrativ poetry storytelling at its best. While I could waste time on the plot and story, I won't because it isn't the best part of this story. Don't get me wrong, the story is frightening and heartbreaking but there's too much here to talk about and too little space.
On the first page, I was enchanted by the designs of the words. The poems meander with their words like a creek bed in the forests of my youth, pulling the reader gently along. Other poems are round, stone shaped thoughts that stop the reader.
Told in a variety of character voices, it is the story of World War and courage and bravery and women's right with love and sickness and loss thrown in for good measure, like a favorite recipe of what the perfect book should be.
To end, one of my new favorite quotes about women's right during a time when women were just discovering the, "Maybe you won't rock a cradle. Some women prefer to rock the boat."
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Crossing Stones by Helen Frost (Hardcover - September 29, 2009)
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