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Diamond Willow Hardcover – April 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374317763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374317768
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—When a diamond willow's bark is removed, sanded, and polished, it reveals reddish brown diamonds, the dark center of which are the scars of missing branches. Frost has used this image to craft an intricate family story in diamond-shaped verse. In her small Alaskan town, 12-year-old Diamond Willow, named for the tree, prefers to be just "Willow" but muses that if her parents had called her "Diamond," "…would I have been one of those sparkly kinds of girls?" Instead she describes herself as an average, part-Athabascan girl with one good friend, who finds herself more comfortable around her family's sled dogs than with people. Her story takes a heartrending turn on a solo dogsled trip to visit her grandparents, and Willow is soon caught up in an intense adventure that leads to the discovery of a family secret. As she unravels the truth, Willow comes to understand the diamonds and scars that bind her family together. She also gains awareness of her own strength and place in her community. Willow relates her story in one-page poems, each of which contains a hidden message printed in darker type. At key intervals, the narrative is continued in the voices of her ancestors, who take the form of animal spirits—Red Fox, Spruce Hen, Mouse, Chickadee, Lynx—and her sled dogs. Frost casts a subtle spell through innovative storytelling. Her poems offer pensive imagery and glimpses of character, and strong emotion. This complex and elegant novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Set in a remote part of Alaska, this story in easy-to-read verse blends exciting survival adventure with a contemporary girl’s discovery of family roots and secrets. Middle-schooler Willow’s dad is Anglo, and her mother is Athabascan. The girl longs to spend more time with her traditional Indian grandparents even though she knows she will miss computers and other things that are a part of her life. When her beloved dog, Roxy, is blinded in an accident (partly Willow’s fault), and her parents want to put the dog down, Willow tries to take Roxy to Grandma and Grandpa. The two are caught in a raging blizzard, and Willow is saved by the spirits of her ancestors, who live on in the wild animals around her. Frost, who spent years teaching in Alaska, blends the young teen’s viewpoint with a strong sense of place and culture. The casual diamond shape of the poems reflects how precious jewels of wisdom can grow around painful scars. Willow’s bond with Roxy is the heart of the tale. Give this to fans of dog stories and to readers who liked Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1987). Grades 6-9. --Hazel Rochman

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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My nine year old daughter loved this book.
Forster
Written in wonderfully clever diamond shaped prose, Frost hides secret messages of Willow's inner thoughts in the dark spots of the diamond willow branch of each page.
J. Davis
At least Ms. Frost handles it tastefully in any case.
E. R. Bird

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. C. Mulhern on May 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost is a short, concise story that packs a powerful punch. I finished it yesterday afternoon and it is still on my mind. The action of the story takes place over the span of a few short days, but don't make the mistake of assuming nothing happens. Willow grows and changes more in those days than most middle-schoolers do in a lifetime.

This is a gorgeous book, despite the fact that there are no illustrations. Instead, this verse novel is told in a series of diamond-shaped poems, based on the shape of the diamond willow. Within each poem, a few words are bolded and when from top to bottom, they form a poem-within-a-poem, the heart of the story. Every single diamond is different, and the word choice in each poem is amazing. I sometimes stopped on a new page just to look at shapes, which almost served as illustrations.

The story is simple and middle-grade students will easily connect with Willow and her family. Willow is a 12-year-old part-Native Alaskan who lives in a very remote town, accessible by snowmobile, plane, and boat. She is struggling with herself, with school, and with finding happiness. She begs her parents to mush the sled (with three of their six dogs) to her Grandparents house one weekend. While they say no at first, she is determined to prove her maturity and they finally give in. But on the way back there's an accident. From there, it builds and to go on would spoil the rest of the story, so I will stop there. but I will say you should pick this up immediately!

One of my favorite parts of the story was Willow's connection to the past. She struggles throughout the book, all the while unaware that the animals surrounding her carry the spirits of dead ancestors and friends who care for her.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The sentence "I told you so!" is deeply satisfying. Granted, the satisfaction you feel when you say it only lasts a minute or two, but for a little while, as you do your "I told you so" dance, you get to feel that thrill of vindication sweeping through your veins. I often feel this way when an author or illustrator I've liked over the years starts garnering a little more notice. Admittedly Helen Frost is maybe not the best example I could call up. After all, she won a Printz Honor a couple years back for her book Keesha's House and her recent picture book Monarch and Milkweed has been getting nothing but sweet sweet loving from professional reviewers. All that aside, I've never felt that anyone has ever given Ms. Frost enough attention for her cleverness. When The Braid was published several years ago it was so smart, so sharp, and so interesting that it took everything I had not to bop people over the head with it at dinner parties. "BOP! Read this!" "BOP! Read this!" No such bopping will be necessary with her newest novel, though. "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.

Take the branch of a willow tree, carve it down, get to the center, polish it, and there where the scar of a living branch remains you will find the shape of a diamond.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By themaven on March 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My daughter (age 9) and I read this book together and both absolutely loved it. It is beautifully written, engaging, and so creative. We really connected reading the book aloud together (something we hadn't done together since 1st grade but have now started doing again since we enjoyed it so much!) and both were especially take with the "secret messages" on the pages. That really inspired some great discussion between us about subtext and how to figure out what people are thinking even when they don't say it outright. I will be giving this book as a gift over and over.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Davis on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Twelve year old Willow doesn't feel at ease anywhere except with her family's mush dogs. But when a bad decision places her, the dogs and a friend in a life threatening situation, she finds that the spirits of her ancestors live in the animals around her to protect and guide her.

Written in wonderfully clever diamond shaped prose, Frost hides secret messages of Willow's inner thoughts in the dark spots of the diamond willow branch of each page.

This is an excellent coming of age story to be enjoyed by all with a great connection to nature and family. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richie Partington VINE VOICE on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"I saw so many things I barely recognized
I thought that I was lost but then I saw you.
I could be wrong, but I swear
That I knew you in another life.
And I could be dreaming, but I swear
That I knew you in another life." -- Todd Rundgren

"...I pack snow into the dog pot. DAD gets a good fire going
in the oil-drum stove. He LOVES THESE DOGS like I do. We're
both out here on weekends, AS MUCH AS we can be, and every
day before and after school. HE LOVES Roxy most. Willow, go
get the pliers, he say, showing ME a quill in Roxy's foot..."

Willow, the young protagonist of DIAMOND WILLOW, takes delight in and is truly at one with her family's dogs. I never seem to lose pleasure in reading great girl-and-her-dog coming of age stories, and DIAMOND WILLOW certainly is that. As twelve year-old Willow embarks upon her first solo dogsled journey -- a visit to her wonderful and understanding grandparents -- she and her dogs are being lovingly watched over by the animals of the interior Alaska woodlands. Many of those animals are inhabited by spirits of Willow's Athapascan ancestors. But, as Willow is returning home, tragedy strikes:

Jean, Willow's great-great-great grandmother (Spruce Hen)

"...At the bottom of this hill, just around the curve, a dead tree fell across the trail, not too long after Willow's father went past this morning. Broken limbs are sticking out all over it.
"If she were coming from the other direction, she'd see it in time to stop. But from this direction, at the speed she's going, Willow won't have time to stop her dogs.
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