A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Patricia Lee Gauch (The Knitting of Elizabeth Amelia); Tony Chen (A Childâ€™s First Bible Storybook); J. Otto Seibold (Olive the Other Reindeer, Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf); and Chris Soentpiet (So Far from the Sea).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Carolyn Haywood (1898â€“1990), "B" is for Betsey.
- Itâ€™s J. R. R. Tolkien Day, in honor of his birthday: J. R. R. Tolkien (1892â€“1973) The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings.
- In 1870, construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge. Read Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse and Brooklyn Bridge by Lynn Curlee.
Today marks Alaskaâ€™s statehood day, when in 1959 Alaska became the forty-ninth state in the Union. Of the myriad books for children that have been set in Alaska, my favorite, Diamond Willow by Helen Frost, appeared recently in 2008. Frost lived and taught for three years in a small Athabascan community in interior Alaska. Many years later she found the appropriate story, and poetic form, to pay tribute to those she had encountered there. Diamond Willowâ€™s father is a science teacher whose ancestors migrated across Canada and the United States for about 160 years before heÂ settled in Old Fork. Her mother is of Athabascan descent, people who have lived in Alaska for centuries. The spirits ofÂ their ancestors now inhabit the birds and animals of the area.
Most of the story is narrated from the point of view of twelve-year-old Diamond Willow. She loves her community and particularly the sled dogs that the family runs and keeps. Convincing her father and mother that she is old enough to handle them alone, she heads out to visit her grandparents, only to have tragedy strike. Their prize dog Roxy suffers an accident that renders him blind. Naturally, Diamond Willow feels responsible. So when her parents decide to euthanize the dog, because it will never run and lead sleds again, the girl takes matters into her own hands. She sets out, on the night of a terrible storm, to beg her grandparents to protect the dog.
Diamond Willowâ€™s story isÂ presented in diamond-shaped poems. Interspersed among these poems are prose pieces, narrated by the animals, which provide context for the events.Â On its most basic level, Diamond Willow tells the love story between a girl and her dog: she is willing to risk her own life to save this animal. But this is one of the rare books for children that also explores the spiritual realm. In it the love and longing of those now dead intersect with the struggles of the living. Imagine Thorton Wilderâ€™s Our Town set in Alaska, and you have an idea of some of the power of this brief text, only 110 pages long.
As with everything Helen Frost writes, poetic form lies at the heart of her structure. Each diamond-shaped poem contains a message, hidden in darker ink. The form of this work was inspired by diamond willow sticks, which when polished reveal reddish-brown diamonds that have a dark center, the scar of a missing branch. As Helen writes in the introduction, â€śThe scars, and the diamonds that form around them, give diamond willow its beauty, and gave me the idea for my story.â€ť
In this rare look at a small town in interior Alaska, Diamond Willow provides a haunting, impossible-to-forget storyâ€”that lingers long after the reader closes the book.
Hereâ€™s a page from Diamond Willow:
Originally posted January 3, 2011. Updated for .