Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow

4.8 9
by Helen Frost

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more to me than
most people

Twelve-year-old Willow would rather blend in than stick out. But she still wants to be seen for who she is. She wants her parents to notice that she is growing up. She wants her best friend to like her better than she likes a certain boy. She wants, more than


more to me than
most people

Twelve-year-old Willow would rather blend in than stick out. But she still wants to be seen for who she is. She wants her parents to notice that she is growing up. She wants her best friend to like her better than she likes a certain boy. She wants, more than anything, to mush the dogs out to her grandparents' house, by herself, with Roxy in the lead. But sometimes when it's just you, one mistake can have frightening consequences . . . And when Willow stumbles, it takes a surprising group of friends to help her make things right again.

Using diamond-shaped poems inspired by forms found in polished diamond willow sticks, Helen Frost tells the moving story of Willow and her family. Hidden messages within each diamond carry the reader further, into feelings Willow doesn't reveal even to herself.
Diamond Willow is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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.” —The Bulletin for Center of Children's Books, Starred Review

“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

“Twelve-year-old Willow longs to take the family's beloved sled dogs on her first solo run to her grandparents' cabin. Inspired by gifts created from diamond willow, Helen Frost has composed unique diamond-shaped poems that reveal the touching story of Willow, her immediate family, and her ancestors, whose spirits reside in many of the animals of the Alaskan wilderness she encounters.” —Tish Gayle, The Blue Marble Bookstore, Fort Thomas, KY

“As it takes us gliding along on a dogsled with Willow into the depths of the snowy Alaskan interior, Diamond Willow illustrates oneness, forgiveness, joyfulness, and how a child can sometimes teach her parents well.” —Richie's Picks

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Willow is part Athabascan, lives in small-town Alaska, and loves helping her dad take care of their sled dogs. She is sure she could make the trip from her home to her grandparents' cabin by herself if her parents would just trust her with a sled and three of the dogs. When she finally convinces them, all goes well until she unexpectedly encounters a downed tree around a blind curve, and Roxy, the lead dog, cannot stop in time. Not only does Willow feel responsible for the devastating injury to their best dog, but she fears she is going to lose her truest friend. Once again, she decides to head to the sanctuary of her grandparents' home, this time taking Roxy as a passenger, only to get lost in a snowstorm. Fortunately, this is a girl with family that loves her and ancestral spirits that watch over her. The story is told from Willow's point of view—in diamond-shaped text, complete with heart-felt hidden messages—and also from the perspectives of her spirit guardians, in the form of animals she lives with or encounters in the wild. This is a strong, independent, and engaging female protagonist who struggles with the common issues around popularity, growing independence from family, and personal responsibility. The book could serve as a positive introduction to belief systems of Alaska Natives, or just an intriguing model to get students involved in writing their own stories. An author's note gives a brief description of the Alaskan town where she once taught school and discloses the significance of the diamond willow, which only reveals its diamond shaped patterns when the rough exterior is peeled away. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Marla K. Unruh
Willow thinks of herself as unspectacular, like the gray and unremarkable bark of the willow tree. Because she is not one of the "sparkly" people in her Alaskan middle school, she wants to ask Grandma and Grandpa to homeschool her, and persuades Mom and Dad to let her take a small dog team to visit her grandparents. Speeding downhill on the way back, Willow cannot avoid a fallen tree. Her favorite dog, Roxy, is injured and blinded. Rather than let her parents put the dog down, Willow and her best friend hurriedly put Roxy on a sled and dog-mush down the trail to her grandparents once again. But along the way, blinding snow obliterates the landmarks, and the girls and dogs have to hunker down in a subzero snowstorm. When they are finally rescued, the relieved parents realize it is time to reveal a stunning family secret. Under its bark, the diamond willow is beautiful, with reddish-brown diamond shapes on a cream-colored shank. Likewise this lyrical gem of a story reveals the inner beauty of a seemingly ordinary Athabascan girl. Each page of her narration is a poem in the shape of a diamond, with a few bolded words in the middle conveying a second message. The ancestors who watch over her in the form of forest animals speak in interspersed pages of prose. An engaging survival tale, it is also the story of a girl who finds within herself the grace to grow up. Reviewer: Marla K. Unruh
VOYA - Colby Smith
Willow, a part Athabascan Indian who lives in Alaska, is a typical girl. When she conscripts her best friend, Kaylie, into a wild adventure to save her favorite dog, the story transforms into a thrilling outdoor escapade that will entrance the reader. This delightful novel is a must-read. Reviewer: Colby Smith, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- When a diamond willow's bark is removed, sanded, and polished, it reveals reddish brown diamonds, the dark center of which are the scars of missing branches. Frost has used this image to craft an intricate family story in diamond-shaped verse. In her small Alaskan town, 12-year-old Diamond Willow, named for the tree, prefers to be just "Willow" but muses that if her parents had called her "Diamond," "...would I have been one of those sparkly kinds of girls?" Instead she describes herself as an average, part-Athabascan girl with one good friend, who finds herself more comfortable around her family's sled dogs than with people. Her story takes a heartrending turn on a solo dogsled trip to visit her grandparents, and Willow is soon caught up in an intense adventure that leads to the discovery of a family secret. As she unravels the truth, Willow comes to understand the diamonds and scars that bind her family together. She also gains awareness of her own strength and place in her community. Willow relates her story in one-page poems, each of which contains a hidden message printed in darker type. At key intervals, the narrative is continued in the voices of her ancestors, who take the form of animal spirits-Red Fox, Spruce Hen, Mouse, Chickadee, Lynx-and her sled dogs. Frost casts a subtle spell through innovative storytelling. Her poems offer pensive imagery and glimpses of character, and strong emotion. This complex and elegant novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Diamond Willow, a young Alaskan of Athabascan and European descent, doesn't have many friends; she's happiest when she's sledding her father's dogs and visiting her grandparents. When her first solo dogsled trip to her grandparents ends with a terrible crash that blinds her father's favorite dog, Roxy, she sets to making sure that Roxy will live out her days with care and not undergo euthanasia-a decision that leads to an amazing revelation about her family. 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; roughly diamond-shaped and no two exactly alike, each contains a "hidden message" printed in boldface that spans several lines and encapsulates the poem. It's a novel idea, and largely works quite well. Less effective are interstitial narratives in the voices of the characters' ancestors, who take part in the story as animals. This device, although integrated into the narrative as a whole, serves to distract the reader from the quiet power of Willow's story. Flawed, but not fatally so. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Helen Frost is the author of several books for young people, including Hidden, Crossing Stones, The Braid, and Keesha's House, selected an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award. Helen Frost was born in Brookings, South Dakota, the fifth of ten children. She recalls the summer her family moved from South Dakota to Oregon, traveling in a big trailer and camping in places like the Badlands and Yellowstone. Her father told the family stories before they went to sleep, and Helen would dream about their travels, her family, and their old house. "That's how I became a writer," she says. "I didn't know it at the time, but all those things were accumulating somewhere inside me."

As a child, she loved to travel, think, swim, sing, learn, canoe, write, argue, sew, play the piano, play softball, play with dolls, daydream, read, go fishing, and climb trees. Now, when she sits down to write, her own experiences become the details of her stories. Helen 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.

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Diamond Willow 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DIAMOND WILLOW is a beautifully written insightful book that has a very heartwarmning story written in free verse. It is all about very important relationships set in winter time in Alaska. It is very appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students.
Kylie1999 More than 1 year ago
Diamond Willow is about a tweleve-year-old girl named Willow Who goes through a thrilling adventure to save her father's lead sled dog, Roxy, (who is really Willow's sister, Diamond.), from possible uthinization because of her loss of eyesight from a sledding ingury. Her friends, Kaylie and Marty, help her along the way. In the text of the book, you will notice tha most of the text is in the shapes of diamonds. In bold words are things that Willow thinks about in the points of time during the story. A great book for dog lovers that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Amazing thrills and action that will keep you reading until the end. A truely exellent story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing - the use of a diamond willow as a name, symbol, and even a poetic form was brilliant. Interjection of prose by animals who are spirits of Willow's ancestors was creative. The imaginings of Willow's twin sister while still in the womb was amazing. The entire work made you cry and hope for the best and ended with the feeling of peace and awe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
englteach More than 1 year ago
I am a middle school librarian and former middle school teacher, so I have read A LOT of books for kids and teens. Diamond Willow was one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time! From the unique format to the way all the characters and animals are connected, teachers and tween/teen readers should not miss this one. It's so short it can be read in one sitting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was a great book for our 10 year old girls with mothers book club. It was good for the girls to show how they can relate to one another in their life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son's school is using this book for their book club - so I snuck it away and read it. Excellent book. Could be used to show cultural aspects. Great perspective on how difficult it is to be a pre-teen!
kch More than 1 year ago
I read this story aloud with my 9 year old daughter. It is the best story we have read together all year. The characters are interesting-- some are animals. My daughter loved reading the diamond shaped poems and then highlighted messages in each one too.