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The Braid Hardcover – October 3, 2006

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374309620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374309626
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. 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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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 Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jeannie and Sarah are teenage sisters living on the Isle of Barra in Scotland in 1850. It is a time that has come to be known as the Highland Clearances when landlords, choosing to raise sheep on the lands instead of renting them out, forced thousands of people to leave their homes. The family plans to sail to Canada. The night before they leave, Jeannie and Sarah braid their hair together, sleeping with their heads touching. But in the morning, Sarah is gone. She has cut the sisters' braid and left half in Jeannie's hand.

Jeannie, her parents and three small siblings sail off, as Jeannie holds the braid and cries for her sister. Sarah has decided to travel with her grandmother back to her grandmother's home on the tiny rugged island of Mingulay. When Murdo Campbell, a young fisherman, sails them to their new home, Sarah feels an emotional attraction to the calm, kind man.

Meanwhile, on the crowded ship traveling to Canada, Jeannie finds her fellow passengers irritable, hungry, thirsty and sick. The sleeping area below deck stinks. Jeannie is heartsick missing Sarah, but she is distracted when her little sister develops a fever. A passenger has died, and the family knows how serious an illness can be.

On Mingulay, Sarah dreams of and worries about Jeannie and her family, but she also enjoys getting to know her extended family. She loves collecting seabird eggs from the cliffs and snaring the birds she and her grandmother eat. She also finds herself waking up at night thinking of Murdo Campbell. Little does she know what lies in their combined future: passion, shame and sorrow --- but also hope.

Jeannie and her family endure a horrendous crossing. As so many of the passengers do, they suffer unbearable losses.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By High school teacher on February 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most "literary" books I've recently read that has the potential of attracting reluctant young adult readers. The slim volume will not intimidate, and the quick-paced, drama-filled narrative will keep them turning pages. Author Helen Frost examines pertinent issues of homelessness, poverty and teen pregnancy in her fictional account of two teenaged sisters torn apart during the Scottish Highland Clearances in 1850. Her interwoven poems between chapters help make this title a unique standout.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Helen Frost has crafted a beautiful novel in verse. This story of two sisters is one that anyone descended from immigrants can appreciate.

Although the poetic form is very intricate and literary, young readers (even reluctant readers) will find the book an approachable, quick read. And even those who don't normally like historical fiction may enjoy it, since the themes in the book are timeless: sisterhood, family love, the struggle for survival, and romance versus reality.
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Format: Hardcover
Teenage sisters Sarah and Jeannie MacKinnon live in the mid-nineteenth century, a time of upheaval in their native Scotland. During the Highland Clearances, families are being summarily evicted from the Western Isles, often with little or no warning, sometimes allowed to take only the clothes they wear.
When the MacKinnons are forced to leave their home, 14-year-old Jeannie accompanies her parents and three younger siblings, hoping to make a new life in Canada. But stubborn 15-year-old Sarah hides until the boat has left, then goes with her grandmother to an even smaller island, where there is no bailiff to evict them.
On their last night together, Sarah braids her own hair with her sister's, then cuts the braid in two and leaves half in the sleeping Jeannie's hand before sneaking away. "You/me/sisters/always."
The stories of the separated sisters are told in alternating short chapters as intimate as entries in a diary. The third strand of the narrative braid is provided by short "praise poems" between the chapters, each poem praising something named in the narrative strands: boats, dreams, feather, stones, stars. "When clouds part and the night sky clears, / stars are fixed points for travelers /moving away from places fixed / in their hearts as home."
Life is not easy. When Sarah receives word her father and two of the younger children have died on the Atlantic crossing, she must grieve their loss without even the comfort of knowing which child still lives. Homeless and penniless in the New World, Jeannie and her mother search unsuccessfully for kinfolk who moved there more than twenty years earlier.
Each sister cherishes her half of the braid, gathering strength from knowing that she is not alone in spirit. The praise poems are sincere.
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