Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crossing Stones - Double Duty Novel

The past winter, long ago it seems like now, I read Printz Honor book author Helen Frost’s historical novel Crossing Stones. Most often it is the character or story that stays with me. Both are true for this mesmerizing story. But her beautiful poetic forms also entranced me and helped carry the theme of the story. Lisa recently blogged about using experimental forms in art and writing. The poetic novel is no longer considered groundbreaking, but as Jason wrote in one of his critical essays, some poetic novels are light verse and nothing more. But Frost’s story set April 1917 – January 1918 uses a formal structure to give the sense of stepping from stone to stone across a flowing creek. The character Muriel’s poems are free form like the creek. Ollie’s and Emma’s represent the stones in cupped-hand sonnets, 14-line poems in which the first line rhymes with the last line and the second line rhymes with the second-to-last, Ollie’s rhymes at the beginning of each line and Emma’s at the end.

Not only is this a great story featuring the tension of World War I approaching and the strengthening movement for women’s suffrage, it deepened my understanding and appreciation for poetry. Wow – double duty. What story recently has been a terrific read and deepened your understanding of craft?

For a blog that does a terrific job of analyzing the craft behind recent books, check out Hamline grad student Heather Hedin Singh’s blog Story Sleuths - This month Heather and two fellow Seattle writers Meg Lippert and Allyson Valentine Schrier discuss the Newbery honor novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.


  1. Ron introduced to me to the work of Helen Frost. She consistently pushes the poetry in her novels. The Braid is another example. In this she created a form that she had to work within. And yes, her characters are so real. I think she's such a force, and so worth reading.

  2. Ooooo, Crossing Stones is one of the best verse novels out there. Frost makes fixed forms look easy.