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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spinning Through the Universe, written by Helen Frost. Frances Foster, Farrar. Douglas & McIntyre, 2004. $17.95 ages 8 and up

" I sit
here wishing I
was smart enough to learn
to read. When it's my turn
she'll say, Just try, 
but it

don't make
no sense to me."

In Mrs.Williams' fifth grade class children grow and prosper, enveloped in an environment of love and understanding. Their voices are heard, their individuality honored. These characters, including their teacher and other adults in their school, speak through a series of poems in a book divided by the author into two halves. Traditional poetic forms are used in the first half. In the second, each character's poem 'spins off' from the first one. A line is taken from the first to create an acrostic for the second. This classroom works together through the school year to create a living, thriving community of learners.

Their hopes, dreams and fears are shared in the first section's thirty-two poems, which each take a different form.  As she has done in her other wonderful books, Helen Frost makes the reader care about these young people and their teacher, providing authentic and powerful voices while letting her readers discover each unique personality. Their issues are shared by many in the world we live in...child abuse, death, homelessness, poverty, self-esteem, friendship, first love, grades and home life. They are so real!

As always, in reading her 'notes on form' I found myself going back and forth to check each out, allowing for an immediate second reading and added pleasure.  Helen Frost teaches beautiful lessons through her wondrous words and I am thankful to be one of her many students!

About her expected twins, Mrs. Williams writes:

"I found out yesterday that I'm expecting twins!

Who will my babies be like? Alert, like
Rosa, quick to react to any
Injustice? Or calm and dreamy, like Naomi? Will
They have to work hard in school, like
Eddie does, or will everything be easy, like it is for Andrew?

Manuel's inventions, or Jaquanna's songs -
You never know what gifts a child will bring. I know, my

Probably won't grow up to be
Like any of these kids. Every child is like
A little world with ever-changing weather,
Nights and mornings. And somehow, here we are,
Spinning through the universe together."

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