salt

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost

In 1812 in Indian Territory, two boys forge a friendship over hunting, fishing and survival of their families.  James’ family runs the trading post at Fort Wayne, living right outside the walls of the fort.  Anikwa’s family, members of the Miami tribe, has lived on this land for generations.  Now two armies are heading right to Fort Wayne to battle, the Americans and British will meet for a critical battle.  The question becomes whose side the Miami will be on when the battle occurs.  But even more deep is the question of whether the friendship between the two boys and their two families can survive this battle and the losses that it brings.

Frost has mastered the verse novel, creating a work that functions as beautiful poetry with profound depths and also as a complete novel.  Frost puts a human face on history in this novel that tells the story of a major battle in the war of 1812.  By the time the soldiers arrive, readers care deeply for both boys and their families.  So when the destruction starts, the wounds are real and the losses far beyond numbers.  The poems show readers the beauty of the landscape, the bounty of the land, and all that is possibly lost afterwards.

Frost writes from both boys’ points of view in alternating poems.  So the lifestyle and losses of both families is shown from their own points of view.  Anikwa’s poems are done in a poetic form that creates a pattern on the page.  Frost explains in her notes at the end that this is to mimic Miami ribbon work.  Without knowing this while reading, I could still see the square form of James’ poem representing the fort and the home he lived in next to the motion-filled form of Anikwa’s poems that exuded nature. 

An exquisite verse novel that fills history with real people and war with real loss.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from library copy.