Thursday, July 10, 2008

Diamond Willow: A Story Within the Story

Diamond willow refers to the wood of a willow tree found in the northern country that when stripped of its bark, various diamond shaped spots are revealed. Inside each diamond is a darker spot that is left by branches that have broken or fallen off.

Helen Frost uses the pattern of the diamond willow for her new book. Each page has a part of the story told in diamond shapes. The paragraphs are actually diamond shaped! In the middle of each diamond BOLD words can be found that form another part of the story. The bold type actually gives insight into Diamond Willow's, the main character, thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the big story. WHOA! At first I was a bit skeptical of the premise, but I was quickly hooked and the kids will be too.

Diamond Willow is a 12 turning 13 year old girl growing up in Alaska. She is part Athapascan Indian and lives in a very remote part of Alaska where people get around on snow machines and dog sleds. She has the typical pre-teen issues at middle school, and wants very much to mush her way, on her own, twelve miles to her grandparents' house. When she finally convinces her parents to let her, we find out that her ancestors inhabit the bodies of the animals in the story. Their story is told in the traditional paragraph form. They are each introduced before they give their viewpoints.

It is through the animals, including the sled dogs, that we find out the twist in the story. I don't want to give anything away, because this is such a beautiful story, but suffice it to say that I was a bit surprised. The story is filled with fantastic language and description. Helen Frost has captured the drama and teen angst of middle school in very few words. The BOLD font story is just as dramatic as the full story and it's only a sentence per page. What a great lesson for students who tend to be word and think more is always better.

I have to say, I overlooked this one several times at my local library, and I'm sorry I did. I am quickly adding it to my Newbery short list.

Fuse #8 reviewed it much earlier here.

For an example of the BOLD text idea look here.


  1. I can't wait to read this -- I love the concepts!

  2. wow
    I love Helen Frost and didn't realize she had a new one out. Thanks for the info!

    are you adding this to your school library?
    Is it appropriate for elementary or meant for MS or YAish?

  3. I will be adding it to the school library. It's very appropriate for 4th and 5th graders.

  4. Just checked this one out and love it. Thanks for sharing. maria