This is the 2009 winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Frost, Helen. 2008. Diamond Willow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Here is a Digital Trailer for DIAMOND WILLOW created by graduate student Laurie L. Kent.
And here is another Digital Trailer for DIAMOND WILLOW. This one is created by graduate student Melissa Quisenberry.
Here is a Readers' Guide for DIAMOND WILLOW created by graduate student Madhu Gupta.
Recommended age levels 8 -13 years.
1. Summary of book (spoiler alert)
A diamond willow is formed when sap gets trapped in the wood and shines like diamond upon polishing. This book is about a 12 year old girl who had been named Diamond Willow after this special natural wonder. She lived with her family and six dogs in Old Fork, a small fictional town in Alaska. Even though she had a beautiful sparkly name, she always felt that she was misnamed and was not significant. She even felt that her dad loved her sled dogs more than her. She did not have a lot of friends at school and was about to lose her best friend to a boyfriend. She loved her dogs but had special love for Roxy who was a smart and clever dog.
Willow’s grandparents lived 12 miles away from her house. One day she asked her parents if she could mush the sled to their house over the weekend. They did not agree to it in the beginning but had to give in finally. She took upon her first sled journey to her grandparents and was being watched by the animals in the woods. It was believed that many of these animals were inhabited by the spirits of Willow’s ancestors who cared for her. She was thrilled to take this first step towards maturity and independence but a terrible accident on the way home changed her life forever.
She made it to her grandparent’s house but while returning home, she took a blind turn too fast and ran into a fallen tree. The lead dog Roxy was blinded by the tree branches and Willow got bruised. She loved Roxy and his injuries had made her very sad. With the accident news spreading, she suddenly got famous in school. When Willow learns that her parents were planning to put Roxy to sleep, she kidnaps Roxy and plans to take the dog to her grandparent’s house. This time she uses Cora as the lead dog but due to Cora’s bad memory and poor weather conditions, they end up lost. They spend the snowy night outside and then start for her grandparent’s house in the morning. On reaching her grandparent’s house she discovers that she had a twin sister called Diamond who died long back. She also discovers that Cora had brought her to the location where her sister’s ashes were scattered. In the end Roxy starts to regain her sight and Willow comes to know the meaning of her name and that Roxy was none other than her twin sister Diamond who died a long time back but was still close to her in the form of Roxy.
This is a beautiful story about nature, family and self discovery by a young girl.
2. Review excerpts/awards
2010 North Carolina Children’s Book Award Master List
2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
2009 Texas Lone Star Reading List
2009 Best Books of Indiana, Children and Young Adult
2009 CCBC Choices List
2009-2010 Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Master List
2009-2010 Keystone to Reading Book Award Master List (Pennsylvania)
2009 Honor Book: The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry
Bank Street List of Best Children's Books
Best Books of Indiana: Children/Young Adult Category
Indie Next Kids' List Great Read
Cybil’s Middle Grade Fiction Finalist
Capitol Choice’s Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Mitten Award--Michigan Library Association
"Frost invents an ingenious poetic form for her story that is both stable and fluid; like the diamond willow branches that she is imitating, the diamond shapes of her poems vary. . . . Frost has spun metaphoric gold out of an evocative natural landscape, and she knows just how to craft it into an elegant and moving story of a young girl's deepening understanding of the relationships she shares with those around her." —Starred, Bulletin for Center of Children's Books
"This complex and elegant novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters." —School Library Journal
“Set in a remote part of Alaska, this story in easy-to-read verse blends exciting survival adventure with a contemporary girl’s discovery of family roots and secrets.” —Booklist
“This delightful novel is a must-read.” —VOYA
“Frost presents her story in a series of poems in Willow’s voice, using a form inspired by the marks on a diamond willow stick.” —Kirkus Reviews, Online
3. Questions to ask before reading
Invite the children to discuss the following:
* What is a diamond willow is and how it is formed?
* Do you have pets? What kind of relationship do you share with your pets?
* Have you read a verse novel before? What do you think the features of verse novels are?
* What do you think are the modes of transport in places with heavy snow and very cold conditions?
4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud
* Students could be encouraged to read aloud one chapter each.
* After reading the entire book, students could be divided into groups and asked to read aloud just the bolded words inside the diamond shaped poem in the chapter to reveal Willow’s feelings and thoughts.
* Invite 8 volunteers to read aloud one diamond shaped poem each by taking turns.
5. Follow up activities (writing, art, science, etc.)
Students could be encouraged to write a poem using creative use of poetry form like the diamond shapes of poem in Diamond Willow.
A piece of real Diamond Willow stick could be used to show students how it is formed and what it looks like.
A discussion could be initiated with the students about animals that live and survive in very cold conditions and how they adapt themselves to such severe conditions.
Students could be encouraged to paint a picture of any special part of the story and discuss why they liked it most.
Students could be asked to paint a picture of their pet (if they have one) or could paint a picture of a pet that they would like to have.
6. Related web sites/blogs
* Cool Antarctica Website:
This website contains facts wide range of information about life in Alaska, animals and how the animal life survives in such cold conditions.
* The Poetry Foundation:
This is an independent literary organization which discovers and celebrates the best poetry and places it before the largest possible audience.
* Kelli Russell Agodon Book of Kells blog:
Book of Kells is a blog by Kelli Russell Agodon, a poet in the Pacific Northwest and co-editor of Crab Creek Review. This blog is full of poetry recommendations, notes on and pictures of her favorite poets, and musings on life in poetry world.
* Best American Poetry Blog:
The best American Poetry blog was created in 2008 by David Lehman as a meeting point, where poets and readers could exchange, discuss and argue about poems and poetry.
7. Related books
Herrick, Steven.2006. BY THE RIVER. Front Street. ISBN 1932425721
Smith, Kirsten. 2006. THE GEOGRAPHY OF GIRLHOOD.. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0316017353
Richards, Jame.2010. THREE RIVERS RISING: A NOVEL OF THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD. Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0375858857
Roy, Jennifer. 2006. YELLOW STAR.. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 9780761452775
McKissack, Patricia. 2007. A FRIENDSHIP FOR TODAY. Scholastic Press. ISBN 043966098X
Birdsall, Jeanne.2005. THE PENDERWICKS: A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY. Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0375831436
Beah, Ishmael. 2007. A LONG WAY GONE: MEMOIRS OF A BOY SOLDIER. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374105235
Hamilton, Bethany. 2004. SOUL SURFER: A TRUE STORY OF FAITH, FAMILY, AND FIGHTING TO GET BACK ON THE BOARD. MTV. ISBN 1416503463
Davis, S., Jenkins, G., Hunt, R., & Draper, S. 2006. WE BEAT THE STREET: HOW A FRIENDSHIP PACT LED TO SUCCESS. Puffin Books. ISBN 9780142406274