Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War

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by Helen Frost

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Anikwa and James, twelve years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping, and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James's family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are

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Anikwa and James, twelve years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping, and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James's family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are rising—the British and American armies prepare to meet at Fort Wayne for a crucial battle, and Native Americans from surrounding tribes gather in Kekionga to protect their homeland. After trading stops and precious commodities, like salt, are withheld, the fort comes under siege, and war ravages the land. James and Anikwa, like everyone around them, must decide where their deepest loyalties lie. Can their families—and their friendship—survive?
In Salt, Printz Honor author Helen Frost offers a compelling look at a difficult time in history.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

A Frances Foster Book

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Using a narrative poetry format, Frost (Hidden) artfully crafts a fiction-based-on-fact story of events at Fort Wayne in the Indiana Territory in 1812. Pages alternate between the insightful voices of two 12-year-old friends: Anikwa, a member of the Miami nation, and James Gray, whose family runs the fort’s trading post. The poems offer each boy’s perspective on events, such as playing together in the woods or, later, the siege of the fort and subsequent burning of Miami villages. The layouts of the boys’ narration visually highlight the contrast between their cultures: Anikwa’s centered verses expand and contract in the organic shape of traditional Miami ribboncraft, while James’s left-justified, double-line stanzas represent the U.S. flag’s stripes, Frost explains. Lyrical poems about salt, a traded commodity necessary to both cultures, are interspersed: “Tears come from earth and sky,/ from words moving through us./ We taste them as they fall,/ leaving salt streaks on our faces.” Author notes and a glossary of Miami words conclude a very personal account of history that offers much for discussion. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (July)
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Friends? Enemies? James Gray and Anikwa have grown up together—James lives with his family who run a trading post by Fort Wayne; Anikwa and his family live nearby in a small community of the Miami (Native American) nation. The two families are friendly and James and Anikwa often meet up in the forest to hunt and play. Anikwa's family trades at the trading post and his mother makes moccasins for James and his sister. In the fall of 1812, however, things are changing. British and American armies are nearing the Fort as part of the War of 1812. Many Indians are siding with the British and significant numbers of Natives gather in Anikwa's village to lay siege to the fort. In distinctive prose of alternating voices, James and Anikwa reveal their ways of life, their friendship, and the strain on their relationship, changing it perhaps forever. As Anikwa's grandmother says, "We cannot stop things from happening. I hope the children will remember how life has been." When the soldiers and Indians have come and gone, both families have suffered immeasurable loss; yet despite their anger and sadness, the Grays walk to the Anikwa's village to give them supplies and a treasured recovered possession. "Anikwa looks at me as if he's forgotten who I am...I do not know what to say," says James. "He looks older. He looks hungry." Both boys have learned the cost of fear and aggression and it has changed them forever. In her notes, Frost explains the two forms of poetry she uses: Anikwa's poems are shaped by Miami ribbon work patterns in diamond and triangle shapes. James' are formed as an image of the stripes of the American flag. Not only do they fit the style of each character, they also provide a visual that helps readers know who is speaking. Poems about salt, necessary to all, are interspersed. James and Anikwa are characters who will live on in readers' minds. Quietly told, the story thoughtfully and openly examines a particular time and place in American history, the prejudice and violence therein. Reviewer: Peg Glisson
VOYA - Charla Hollingsworth
Salt is a remarkable novel that draws a reader's attention to the War of 1812 through the eyes of two young boys on the verge of becoming teenagers. James and Anikwa love to fish and enjoy the peaceful frontier life near Fort Wayne in the Indiana Territory. They think little of the politics between the settlers and the Indians until the battle comes to their doorsteps. Anikwa and his family are members of the Miami tribe and the land of the Indiana Territory has been their familial land for centuries. They have hunted, fished, trapped, traded, and lived in harmony with the land without problems—until the new American settlers begin to take more and more land for themselves. James and his American family run a trading post in the forest surrounding Fort Wayne and regularly trade with their Miami friends. As the desire for more land spurs the American settlers to move farther and farther west, the Miami Indians must decide if they will fight the Americans or relinquish their hold on the land they love so much. As the conflict escalates, James and Anikwa are caught in the middle; they do not know who to trust or believe. With soldiers entering the fort and the trading post being burned, James, his mother, and his sister move into the fort for safety. The Miami Indians hope the British soldiers will help them fight the Americans. When help fails to materialize, Anikwa and his family bury their food and move west until the furor dies over. The American soldiers work to push the Indians back by burning their village and crops, and killing many animals. Salt is an important novel for students to read and consider as they are learning about the War of 1812 in their social studies classes. The perspective of the boys helps bring personal meaning to a period of history that can be hard for students to grasp. Reviewer: Charla Hollingsworth
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Though the year 1812 rings ominously in the ears of any American history student, for Anikwa and James it is simply their 12th year, one that they expect will unfold like those that came before it. Anikwa, a member of the Miami tribe, and James, the son of traders living just outside Fort Wayne, have an easy friendship filled with trapping, fishing, and exploring the surrounding woods and river. Yet as outside events begin to converge, the first signs of betrayal and confusion enter their world as all is turned upside down. Frost, as readers have come to expect, fully embraces the stylistic possibilities of the verse form; James's poems run in long parallel lines visually representing the stripes of the American flag, while Anikwa's mirror Miami ribbon work. The two voices-and therefore forms-alternate easily throughout the story. The titular salt is sprinkled throughout the narrative, both as the subject of short poems that "give readers pause" between events (according to Frost's notes) and as a symbol of the fragile friendship between frontiersmen and Native Americans. James's father uncharacteristically withholds salt from Anikwa's people as tensions rise; yet pages later he watches as James takes great risk to get salt to Anikwa outside the stockade. The verse is succinct, yet beautiful, and the story is rich in historical and natural details. Fans of frontier and survival stories will find much to love within these pages.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Frost explores the wide-ranging impact of wartime aggression through the intimate lens of two 12-year-old boys caught in the crossfire of the War of 1812. Anikwa, a member of the Miami tribe hailing from Kekionga, often spends his days hunting and playing in the forest with James Gray, whose home is in the stockade near Fort Wayne. For centuries, Anikwa's ancestors have lived in this area, and James' family has enjoyed amicable relations with the Miami and other Native Americans with whom they exchange goods. While these differing communities have learned from and helped support each other through adverse conditions, British and American claims to the Indiana Territory near Fort Wayne force them to re-examine their relationship. As other tribes and thousands of American soldiers gather to fight to establish the border between Canada and the United States, Anikwa's grandmother laments, "We can't stop things from changing. I hope / the children will remember how our life has been," foreshadowing how the boys' friendship, which has always been able to bridge cultural and language gaps, will face unprecedented challenges. Frost deftly tells the tale through each boy's voice, employing distinct verse patterns to distinguish them yet imbuing both characters with the same degree of openness and introspection needed to tackle the hard issues of ethnocentrism and unbridled violence. Sensitive and smart: a poetic vista for historical insight as well as cultural awareness. (Verse novel. 10-14)
The Wall Street Journal

[Readers] will come away with heightened sympathy for non-combatants caught up in the course of violent change.
starred review Booklist

Printz Honor Book author Frost (Keesha's House, 2003) has written, with artful economy, another affecting novel in verse. Interspersed among selections narrated in the alternating voices of the two boys are poems about the salt that is necessary to the survival of both peoples.

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.88(w) x 9.16(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dang mosquito bit me right where I can’t reach it.
I rub my back against a hickory tree—up and down,

side to side. There—almost got it. Might look silly,
but nobody’s watching. Except a squirrel—I hear it
up there in the branches, and I get out my slingshot.
Ma will be happy when I bring home something

for the soup pot. Where is that old squirrel, anyhow?
Sounds like a whole family of ’em, laughing at me,

and I can’t see even one. What? Not again! It’s
Anikwa, laughing as he jumps down from the tree

and lands beside me. How long has he been watching?
I swear he can sound like anything! Squirrel, bumblebee,

bluebird, or bullfrog. Once, I heard my baby sister crying,
but when I turned to look—it wasn’t Molly, it was him!


James looks
up in the tree like he thinks
there’s a real squirrel hiding somewhere
in its branches. I suck in my cheeks
to make myself stop laughing—
he shakes his head,
puts away
his stone and slingshot,
gives me a smile that means I got him
this time, but next time he’ll be watching if I
try that trick again. Come on, he motions as he heads
to the berry bushes. I’ve seen him out here picking berries
every afternoon since they started to get ripe.
Makiinkweeminiiki, I say, pretending to
put berries in my mouth and
pointing down the trail
toward the bushes.
He nods his head.
Yes, he says,
blackberries. As we walk
to the berry patch, he tries my word—
makiinkweeminiiki, and I try his—blackberries.
I roll both words around like berries
in my mouth.

Copyright © 2013 by Helen Frost

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Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
socraticparenting More than 1 year ago
Salt, Helen Frost’s latest novel in verse set during the war of 1812 in what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana, focuses readers on the community ripped apart in the clash of the Native American and National American cultures. Frost tells the story in alternating single-page poems through the voice and friendship of two twelve-year-old boys: James (poems that reflect the stripes on the American flag) and Anikwa (poems shaped like the patterns of Miami ribbon work). The son of a trader, James is often torn as he admires the presence, awareness, and skills of his Miami friend Anikwa and rejects the thoughtless, destructive ignorance of his American friend Isaac. Author’s notes and a glossary help readers appreciate more fully the history, language and culture that converge and flow through Frost’s poetry like the three rivers of Kekionga, homeland of the Native Miami where the American soldiers built Fort Wayne. (A replica of the old fort still stands today at the junction of the St. Mary's, St. Joseph, and Maumee Rivers, and is worth walking through if you’re ever in northeast Indiana.) Ten carefully crafted salt poems create a cadence similar to chapter breaks. These poems are especially beautiful and worth savoring on their own. The conflict that drives the novel remains a part of America’s story today, and Salt subtly calls us to recognize and acknowledge it so that we can begin to seek genuine resolution. The final poem “Now the Sugar Maple” leaves us with a sweet taste of hope rather than salt in this open wound. Frost’s poignant historical fiction is sure to leave salt streaks on the cheeks of many readers.