This is a 2007 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Frost, Helen. 2006. The Braid. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Here is a Digital Trailer for THE BRAID created by graduate student Cynthia MacDonald.
You'll find it in the July 12, 2011 posting on her blog here.
Here is a Readers' Guide for THE BRAID created by graduate student Toshalunda T. Mabry.
Recommended Grades 5-7
About the author
Helen Frost was born in 1949 in South Dakota, the fifth of ten children. Ancestors that she knows of came from Scotland, Canada, Denmark, and Norway. Helen herself has lived in South Dakota, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Scotland, Colorado, Alaska, California, and Indiana. She currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her family.
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. 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.
"This gem of a book ultimately tackles age-old issues of teen pregnancy, death, poverty, and first love in a timeless manner. Accomplished and impressive." —Starred, School Library Journal
"The Braid is both powerful fact and stirring metaphor . . . the book will inspire students and teachers to go back and study how the taut poetic lines manage to contain the powerful feelings." —Starred, Booklist
Frost's ingeniously structured novel in verse . . . may be set in 1850, but its themes will resonate with today's teens. Memorable." —Starred, Publishers Weekly
"Incredibly imagery, rich vocabulary, and powerful storytelling." —Kirkus Reviews
"A compelling story that will see poetry-shy readers through." —The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults;
Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry Honor Book;
NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts;
Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year; CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI);
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book;
NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies;
Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year;
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List;
Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
1. When reading the book, were you aware of the poetic forms being used? Whether or not you were conscious of it, how did the rhythm affect your reading of the book?
2. Did you begin to recognize and differentiate between the individual voices?
3. What is the poetic form? What is the rhyme scheme? Does the author use imagery, metaphor, simile, or dialect in the poem?
Suggestions for Read-Alouds
*Poems for Two Voices
Read this book as though it is written specifically to be read in two voices. Perfect for kids who enjoy reading with friends.
*Select an excerpt to read as a monologue, or, with a group, act out a part of the book as a play.
*Have groups reassemble a popular excerpt from the book. Groups will read aloud but must have original delivery in rhyme, dynamics, tone, line length, etc.
Activity 1: Clans Social Studies
Discussion, in an appropriate context, to clarify the notion of 'boss' and 'management systems.' Explain that in Scotland before the 1800s there was a Clan System where everyone worked together for the good of the clan. Elements of this still existed in the 19th century.
The cottars - worked for sub-tenant farmers. Place this card at the bottom of the pile.
Sub-tenant farmers or crofters - lived in croft houses and leased land from the tacksman. Place this card above the cottars.
Tacksmen - leased land from the Clan Chief and made sure things ran smoothly on the land. Place this card above the sub-tenant farmers.
Chief - owned the land. Add this card to the top of the display.
Activity 2 : Location ( People and Place)
Show learners a map of Scotland highlighting the Regions, where they live and any other relevant special features. Focus on the Highland region including the Northern Highlands, Skye, Lochalsh, Fort William, Lochaber, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. Distribute blank map and get learners to identify these key areas and highlight where they live.
Assessment: Successfully label map.
Activity 3: Timeline Writing
Discuss with learners a variety of significant dates (the present, their birthday, WW2, the Victorians and dates from topics studied at school). Divide into groups, distribute flashcards (with event and date) and ask pupils to arrange in chronological order beginning with the present. Incorporate the dates mentioned in the website - 1800, 1814 and 1821 - and explain that this is the period they are going to be studying.
Assessment: Successfully order events in a timeline.
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
Crossing Stones by Helen Frost
Keesha's House by Helen Frost