Monday, January 22, 2007
Frost, Helen. 2006. THE BRAID. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374309620 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 – 10]
Helen Frost has given us the Printz Honor book, KEESHA’S HOUSE as well as SPINNING THROUGH THE UNIVERSE and now outdoes herself with THE BRAID. She “braids” the intertwining tale of two sisters surviving hardships as Scottish refugees/immigrants in the 1850’s. Told through a poetic structure of her own invention derived from Celtic knots (and explained in helpful endnotes), the story unfolds in narrative poems in two voices alternating with praise poems and all connected through parallel beginning and ending lines. Although this is complicated to describe, the structure does not get in the way of one’s enjoyment, quite the contrary. The rhythm created by this short poem/long poem; girl who stays/girl who leaves story keeps the reader turning the page. And the language and writing is exquisite:
“The songs that enter children’s ears
carried across centuries of
love, stay with them, bringing comfort…”
Each sister emerges as a strong and individual character against a fascinating slice of history in two vivid settings. And each girl’s experience bridges the divide from girlhood to womanhood—thus a book perhaps most appropriate for middle school and above. A new poem-story book not to be missed.
Demonstrate braiding yarn, rope, or even hair to demonstrate this old technique for weaving three strands together.
Readers may enjoy researching the plight of Scottish refugees and immigrants in the 1850’s and locating the dual locations cited in the story on a world map.
Other works by Helen Frost:
KEESHA’S HOUSE. ISBN 0374340641
SPINNING THROUGH THE UNIVERSE. ISBN 0374371598
Other historical verse novels:
Crist-Evans, Craig. MOON OVER TENNESSEE: A BOY'S CIVIL WAR JOURNAL. ISBN 0618311076
Hesse, Karen. OUT OF THE DUST. ISBN 0590371258
By Sylvia M. Vardell