This is a 2010 honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
You'll find a Digital Trailer for CROSSING STONES created by graduate student Rozanna Bennett at YouTube and here.
There are TWO Readers' Guides for this book presented below.
Here is a Readers' Guide for CROSSING STONES created by graduate student Jennifer Pennington.
Recommended age levels: YA, 12 and up
1. Summary of book
In this beautifully written verse novel, Helen Frost tells the story of a young girl, Muriel, and her struggle for a voice during WWI. Muriel, who struggles with the idea of President Wilson sending young boys off to war, finds herself in her own battle. In a small town where relationships grow out of young friendships, Muriel finds herself struggling between life without her friend Frank, and the idea of a group of women, her aunt in particular, fighting for their rights. Frost arranges the poems in a symbolic way that flows like a stream with the movement of the story. She paints a picture with words of a lazy river and stones tossed into that river, stones which represent changing times, times of struggle, sacrifice, illness, and loss. She also strategically places rhythm throughout Ollie and Emma’s poems. This style connects to the two characters and helps the reader understand the close relationship the two develop. Frost creates precious characters that captivate the reader and develop a sense of empathy for them. Most of all, Frost guides you through a beautiful story of growing up in a time of war, and points out the struggles families, as well as women dealt with during WWI.
2. Review excerpts/awards
• Booklist starred review (October 1, 2009)"Frost offers a layered, moving verse novel."
• Horn Book starred review "Muriel speaks in an engaging and convincing free-verse stream-of-consciousness style.
• Kirkus starred review (September 15, 2009) "This gorgeous collection of cupped-hand sonnets tells the story of two families whose lives are forever changed by WWI."
• Library Media Connections starred review (November/December 2009) "This is excellent historical fiction"
• School Library Journal (October 1, 2009) "Frost's warmly sentimental novel covers a lot of political, social, and geographical grounds."
• Book Links (ALA)
3. Questions to ask before reading
Invite the children to discuss the following:
• Historical facts about WWI. Find out what students already know about the war.
• Women’s suffrage movement. Find out what the students know about the movement. Share historical information about the movement and allow students to ask questions and perform a small research using the internet and share their findings.
• How ‘war’ affects not only the soldiers, but their families as well. Discuss in what ways the war effects families at home.
• Censorship; how soldier’s letters home were monitored and censored.
4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud
• Read the book to the class without revealing the fact that it is poetry. After completing the reading reveal that the book is actually a novel in free verse. This may take a few days, but may be attractive to students who tend to feel intimidated by poetry.
• Divide the class into groups of four. Assign one of the four main characters to each member of the group. Have students sit in groups and read their parts aloud.
• Divide the class into groups of two, boy and girl. Have them read selected poems by Ollie and Emma. The author has designed the poems so that the 7th and 8th line of Emma’s poems rhyme with the first and last lines of Ollie’s next poem. Have students read aloud and listen for the rhyming pattern the author has intricately designed.
5. Follow up activities (writing, art, science, etc.)
Helen Frost used words to create a continual picture of a flowing river and stepping stones. Have students try their hand at writing free verse poetry in form. The students write a short poem about any subject and form the words to create a picture of the subject discussed.
*World War I history unit
Use this novel to introduce a unit on WWI and spark interest in students. Pull particular subjects from the book such as: President Wilson, women’s suffrage movement, and the censoring of soldier’s letters. Or, use the novel to follow up a unit on WWI, bringing the subject matter of the war to life.
Helen Frost explains how she designed the rhyme throughout the poetry. Her design is complicated and goes unnoticed when first reading the novel. Read aloud some of Ollie and Emma’s poems and help students identify rhyming words in the poems. Have students write a short poem using the same design. This activity in turn will train students to take a closer look at poetry. To realize poets have a design in mind and the design serves a purpose.
Frost did a wonderful job in forming her poems to create a flowing river with stones throughout the novel. The river represents Muriel and Frank, while the stones represent Ollie and Emma’s relationship. Students are to create a piece of art for this novel in verse that represents these characters, their struggles, and their relationships. Students are allowed to use any type of media, collage, paint, pencil, etching, etc. Students need to create the emotions through art that Frost created through words and form.
6. Related web sites/blogs
Review Blog site
(Look here for a review on Crossing Stones, as well as other middle school aged novels)
Helen Frost, Author Web Site
(Look here for other books written by Helen Frost.)
(Look here for more information about Helen Frost and other poets.)
World War I
(Look here for more information on WWI, including PBS videos and WWI information.)
Women’s Suffrage Movement
(Look here to view photos and videos of the suffrage movement.)
(Look here to see the DVD Iron-Jawed Angels, the story of women fighting for the right to vote.)
7. Related books
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2007. Uprising. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Lasky, Kathryn. 2002. A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen. New York : Scholastic.
Salisbury, Graham. 1994. Under the Blood-Red Sun. New York: Delacorte Press.
Bausum, Ann. 2004. With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote. Washington, DC: National Geographic.
Dumbeck, Kristina. 2001. Leaders of women’s suffrage. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books.
Parsons, Ian M. 1965. Men who march away; Poems of the First World War. New York: Viking Press.
Here is another Readers' Guide for CROSSING STONES created by graduate student Cynthia Cruz.
Crossing Stones follows the lives of two Michigan families during the early twentieth century. The two families struggle and succeed through a myriad of difficulties and hardships that mark important passages in the history of the United States: World War I, the Women's Suffrage Movement, and an influenza epidemic. The novel in verse centers around the children of the families: Muriel, Ollie, and Grace of the Jorgensen family with Emma and Frank of the Norman family. The young people of the novel have unique perspectives and their stories are told through poems that are structured as a meandering creek (Muriel) and as rounded stones (Emma and Ollie).
The parents hope for a marriage between the young people connecting the families, but the destiny and lives of the two families are inextricably linked by metaphoric stones of love, compassion, and friendship.
2. Review Excerpts/ Awards
“The distinct voices of the characters lend immediacy and crispness to a story of young people forced to grow up too fast.” —Starred, Horn Book
“Frost skillfully pulls her characters back from stereotype with their poignant, private, individual voices and nuanced questions, which will hit home with contemporary teens, about how to recover from loss and build a joyful, rewarding future in an unsettled world.”—Starred, Booklist
“With care and precision, Frost deftly turns plainspoken conversations and the internal monologues of her characters into stunning poems that combine to present three unique and thoughtful perspectives on war, family, love and loss. Heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful, this is one to savor.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“Frost’s warmly sentimental novel covers a lot of political, social, and geographical ground . . . . But this is Muriel’s story, and her determined personality and independence will resonate with readers.” —School Library Journal
“A thoughtful read.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Both a great story and a perfectly-worded poetic work of art.” —Richie’s Picks
“This beautifully written, gently told story can be used for classroom discussion in social studies and English, or simply for leisure reading.” —VOYA
Honors and Awards
Lee Bennett Hopkins Award, Honor Book
Booklist: "Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth"
Oprah's Book Club for Kids
Winner, Children's/Young Adult "Best Books of Indiana" 2010
Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2010
2010 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18)
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2010
Kirkus Reviews "The Best Young Adult Books of 2009"
Richie's Picks, Best of 2009 list
Booklist Editors' Choice
Book Links Lasting Connections
A Great Lakes independent Booksellers Association "Great Lakes Great Reads" selection, Fall, 2009
Winter 2009-2010 Kid's Indie Next List -- "Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers"
Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children, Best of 2009
Bookends at Booklist blog (Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan's best-of-the-best-books-for-teens 2009)
ACPL--Mock Newbery honor book, adult judges
ACPL--Mock Printz honor book
3. Questions to Ask Before Reading the Book
1. What is a verse novel? How does it differ from traditional novels? What is their structure?
2. Ask students who were the major figures in the Women's Suffrage Movement.
3. Ask students if anyone in their family has served in the military. What types of memories do they have about their service?
4. Suggestions For Reading Poems Aloud
1. Ask students to choose one of the characters in the novel. Recite a poem in the voice of either Muriel, Emma, or Ollie.
2. Give pairs of students a list of words from the novel and ask them to create a poem to recite to their classmates.
3. Organize a poetry reading in the school library and have students recite their favorite poem from the novel.
5. Follow Up Activities
1. Have students create a poem with similar structure as the 2 types in the novel Students may choose the poem type representing the meandering creek (non-linear) or the rounded structure representing the stones that cross the creek and connect the two families together.
2. Ask students to create a poem for National Women's History Month (March) in celebration of a woman whose achievement has furthered the cause of women.
3. Have students write an elegy for young Frank Norma who is killed in World War I.
6. Related Websites
1. http://sewellbelmont.com - National Women's Party
-the website of the Sewell-Belmont House and museum
The National Women's Party owns and operates this museum. Through the website and museum they communicate their history and ideology of their organization. Information on the 19th Amendment and the fight for Women's Suffrage is detailed here.
2. http://www.pbs.org/great war -
The PBS website holds authoritative, pertinent information on World War I, its background and the repercussions of the war. Included are resources for teachers and students such as a timeline and maps.
3. http://www.nwhp.org - National Women's History Project
The website companion to the National Women's History Project celebrates the achievements and history of women. Information on this site includes a biography center, an archive of great speeches, and resources for teachers and students.
7. Related Books
Engle, Margarita. 2010. The Firefly Letters: a Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co.
Frost, Helen. 2008. Diamond Willow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Greenfield, Eloise. 2006. When the Horse Rides By: Children in the Time of War. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books.
Freedman, Russell. The War to End All Wars: World War I. Boston, Mass: Clarion Books.
Sullivan, George. 1994. The Day the Women Got the Vote: a Photo History of the Women's Rights Movement. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Todd, Anne. 2009. Susan B. Anthony: Activist. New York, NY: Chelsea House.
Cali, Davide. 2009. The Enemy: a Book About Peace. New York, NY: Schwartz and Wade Books.
Dowell, Frances O' Roark. 2008. Shooting the Moon. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Jocelyne, Marthe. 2004. Mable Riley: a Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press.