The Braid

Helen Frost, Author . FSG/Foster $16 (95p) ISBN 978-0-374-30962-6

Frost's (Spinning Through the Universe ) ingeniously structured novel in verse about a Scottish family may be set in 1850, but its themes will resonant with today's teens. The events unfold through the alternating perspectives of sisters Sarah, the oldest of four, whose strength and agility with tools help her father ("just like a lad," says he), and Jeannie, the comely one with golden curls. Readers quickly learn that the British landlords are forcing out the residents of Scotland's Western Isle of Barra. The night before the family's planned departure for Canada, Sarah braids together her hair with Jeannie's, takes one half of the braid for herself and leaves the other for her sister. While 14-year-old Jeannie departs with her parents and two younger siblings by boat, 15-year-old Sarah hides out in order to stay with their grandmother and return with the woman to Mingulay, the small island south of Barra where their grandfather is buried. The braid not only symbolizes the bond between the sisters ("You'll always long for Jeannie , Aunt Mari says [to Sarah]. No matter how far/ away she is, you may know when something hard is happening to her "), but also nods to Frost's form here, the Celtic knot, which she employs seamlessly. This brief, memorable book spans two years, several deaths, first love and the stigma attached to unwed mothers, while also conveying the resolve of one family to survive and to preserve hope. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/16/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 169 pages - 978-0-7862-9497-8
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