During this Indiana Bicentennial year, I will be introducing you to some amazing Indiana authors. Helen Frost, a resident of Fort Wayne, is a poet, playwright and novelist all rolled into one. Writing and teaching have been the interwoven strands of her career. She has taught in far-flung locations such as California, Alaska and Scotland.
She has written over 20 non-fiction books for beginning readers, but the two shown below stand out for Frost’s descriptions of the natural world. Monarch and Milkweed explains the relationship between the butterflies and the milkweed plant in lyrical prose, and the jewel-toned illustrations by Leonid Gore help to make this one of the best monarch butterfly books you will ever find. Frost invites us to look closely at the small creatures all around us in Step Gently Out, which features close-up photography of insects by Rick Lieder.
Helen Frost is well-known for the novels-in-verse she has written for upper elementary and teen readers. Before reading one of these books, look for the author’s note that explains the poetry. Frost is always intentional in using forms of poetry that reflect the culture and characters she writes about. Her novel Keesha’s House won a Printz Honor Award in 2004 and uses sonnets and sestinas to relate a story of multiple perspectives. The Braid depicts a Scottish family separated through the immigration of some family members; the poems are braided together to represent a Celtic knot.
Diamond Willow is set in the Athabascan culture of Alaska. Frost drew inspirations for her poetry style from the scars that form when a branch of a diamond willow shrub is broken away. Look for a hidden message in the center of each diamond-shaped poem! In each of her novels, Frost uses poetry to bring deeper meaning to the stories and to enhance the reader’s experience. Salt should be of particular interest this year as a historical novel set in Indiana during the War of 1812.
Give one of these amazing books a chance, even if poetry is not something you would normally choose. You’ll be glad you did! For more information, you can watch an interview with Helen Frost posted by the Allen County Library.