more to me than
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.
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