From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–Teenage sisters Jeannie and Sarah are separated when the Highland Clearances of the 1850s tear their family away from the only home they've known. Jeannie sails to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, with their parents and younger siblings to start a new life, while Sarah decides to remain in Scotland with their grandmother. In an age when distance and illiteracy prohibit communication, the girls remain connected solely by pieces of a braid intertwined with one another's hair. Though seemingly a distant reality from that of today's teens, this gem of a book ultimately tackles age-old issues of teen pregnancy, death, poverty, and first love in a timeless manner. Frost tells the compelling story using a formal structure consisting of narrative poems in alternating voices, praise poems, and line lengths based on syllabic count. While the inventive form is accomplished and impressive, it's the easy flow of the verse and its emotional impact that will carry even reluctant readers into the windswept landscape and the hardships and dreams of these two girls.–Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT
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*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. When their family is evicted from the Western Isles of Scotland in 1850, teenage sisters Jeannie and Sarah are torn apart. Jeannie goes with her parents and younger siblings to Cape Breton, Canada. Her older sister, Sarah, hides so she can stay behind with Grandma. Before they separate, the sisters braid their hair together, and cut it off, each taking half the braid ("You / me / sisters / always"). The tale unfolds in plain narrative poems, presented in the girls' alternating voices: Jeannie speaks of her brutal ocean crossing, during which her father and younger siblings perish, and of her struggle as a stranger in the new country; Sarah talks about her loneliness, her love, and her illegitimate baby. The braid is both powerful fact and stirring metaphor in the girls' story of lasting connections, oceans apart, and it extends to encompass themes of home, shelter, and heritage, as well as the yearning for family wherever one lives. In concluding notes, Frost explains the poetic forms she used, which braid together the two immediate voices with echoing words and rhythms. As in Frost's Keesha's House
(2003), the book will inspire both students and teachers to go back and study how the taut poetic lines manage to contain the powerful feelings. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved