Two sisters, Jeannie and Sarah, tell their separate yet tightly interwoven stories in alternating narrative poems. Each sister – Jeannie, who leaves Scotland during the Highland Clearances with her father, mother, and the younger children, and Sarah, who hides so she can stay behind with her grandmother – carries a length of the other's hair braided with her own. The braid binds them together when they are worlds apart and reminds them of who they used to be before they were evicted from the Western Isles, where their family had lived for many generations.
The award-winning poet Helen Frost eloquently twists strand over strand of language, braiding the words at the edges of the poems to bring new poetic forms to life while intertwining the destinies of two young girls and the people who cross their paths in this unforgettable novel. An author's note describes the inventive poetic form in detail.
The Braid is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
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Helen Frost is the author of several books for young people, including Hidden, Diamond Willow, Crossing Stones, and Keesha's House, selected an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award. Helen Frost was born in Brookings,South Dakota, the fifth of ten children. She recalls the summer her family moved from South Dakota to Oregon, traveling in a big trailer and camping in places like the Badlands and Yellowstone. Her father told the family stories before they went to sleep, and Helen would dream about their travels, her family, and their old house. "That's how I became a writer," she says. "I didn't know it at the time, but all those things were accumulating somewhere inside me."
As a child, she loved to travel, think, swim, sing, learn, canoe, write, argue, sew, play the piano, play softball, play with dolls, daydream, read, go fishing, and climb trees. Now, when she sits down to write, her own experiences become the details of her stories. Helen has lived in South Dakota, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Scotland, Colorado, Alaska, California, and Indiana. She currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From The Braid
. . . The bay was still. Moonlight on the water made a path from our Scottish sea to –where? Where, I wonder, will we all be eating supper in two months’ time? One year? I linked arms with Sarah, the way we’ve done since we were small, sitting and watching on t hat rock. Then we dipped our hands into the sea and touched our tongues to the seawater, each of us swallowing a bit. Canada seemed far away, the salty sea so close, our journey not yet started. We walked back home. Hush now, Sarah said, they’ll be asleep. So they were, but we were wide awake when we went to our bed. I took the hairbrush from the wooden bench, and sat by Sarah, brushing out her long thick hair. Oh, Jeannie . . . Sarah whispered. I can’t . . . She drew in her breath. Then . . . Goodnight. ( Or did she say goodbye ?) She loosened my braids, held them in her hand, and brushed my hair so hard – I should have known. But how could I? Then Sarah braided my hair with her own, close and tight, so our heads were touching. We started laughing.
Will you girls go to sleep? It’s near morning! Father called. Like two cats curled together, we slept that night. Or – did Sarah sleep?
She must have stayed awake until I slept. She must have had her sewing scissors tucked into her pocket. Sarah knew where she was going. I woke to no warm place beside me.
She’d cut the braid close to our heads, tucked half into my hand –
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