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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Salt, written by Helen Frost. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2013. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Sun lit its path
and warmed it.
Earth gave it food.
Rain quenched its thirst.
Salt kept it strong.

Now its life will be ours:
food, strength, warmth.
We give thanks
for earth, rain, sun.
For salt. For deer."

I have a very soft spot in my heart for this book. My dearest friend lives in Celina, Ohio. The first time our family visited, we flew into the airport at Fort Wayne, Indiana on a blazing hot July day. My six-month-old son was literally stuck to me, due to the humidity when we landed. I think that our mutual aversion to humid weather might have begun right then and there. I have been back to Fort Wayne on many other visits...never to the airport. Piqua is also nearby, and I have also visited there. They have SweetHart Cakes and Thoma Joe Jewelers...I have a history with both!

Truly, I have a very special place in my heart for each and every one of Helen Frost's books. They have a special section of their own in my library, and I have returned to them time and again for lessons in perfect word choice, pacing and storytelling. I have such admiration for her body of work.
She is a consummate researcher, and a meticulous crafter of shaped poems that have everything to do with the story she is telling. There, I've said it!

And, I must also say I have a clearer picture of the war of 1812 than ever before...Ms. Frost gives us characters to admire and a powerful story of two boys caught in a clash that has no real meaning for them. They have difficulty understanding each other at times because of language; but, in this instance, they have the same discomfort about what  is happening around them that is completely beyond any personal control.

Using her knowledge of the Miami people, the events of the time and cultural differences, the author crafts a poignant tale using the observations and emotions of two young boys, friends since birth. Its pages alternate between the two voices, sharing their personal perspective on all that is happening as war rears its ugly head. Anikwa is a Miami boy who has always spent time with James, the son in the family that owns the trading post at a nearby fort. They have shared so much in their short lives.

Their families have always lived as friends. Mr. Gray provides needed supplies while the Miami provide goods essential to those who live at the fort. They have learned to assist each other in battling the tough conditions of living through harsh winters, scorching summers, good times and bad. Both British and American forces seek dominance in the Indiana Territory, and the two families (and their sons) are caught up in the fight. It pits one friend against the other...or does it?

The boys' voices are created in two distinct styles of verse. In a note about form Ms. Frost explains that Anikwa's verses are designed in the shape of traditional ribbon work done by the Miami. James' voice is written in two line stanzas meant to represent the American flag. Interspersed throughout, there are lyric poems about salt, a valuable commodity for both cultures and a strong link when the fighting begins.

Further to the notes about form and salt, we are made aware of names chosen for the telling and a glossary of Miami words.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, adore Helen Frost, and the Ohio connection looks interesting. It is a bit hard to get some of her books, like The Braid, to circulate, but I'll definitely take a look at this.