Through her approachable poetry, Frost tells the story of two neighbor families that endure love and loss during World War I. As the war begins, Frank signs up to serve in the army. He attends boot camp and leaves a hero. He writes to Muriel and their love begins to bloom. Muriel's brother, Ollie, seeing his friend leave for war, decides that even though he is 16, he is going to join the army, too. He lies and tells no one he is leaving, and he later regrets his decision. War is nothing like he expected and no matter his training, he can't kill his enemy. Luckily for Ollie, he gets wounded and taken to a hospital only to return home and find out that his friend and neighbor, Frank, has been killed in action. Both families deal with the loss of their friend and adjust to Ollie's life with only one arm.
Crossing Stones by Helen Frost serves as art in literature. The poems, while not initially striking or poetic, have been carefully created. The author explains in a "Note on Form" that the form is quite structured in that they not only look like the stones and a parts of a creek, but they have a formula to tie each poem together. To quote Frost, "They are cupped-hand sonnets, fourteen-line poems in which the first line rhymes with the last line, the second line rhymes with the second to last and son, so that the seventh and eighth lines rhyme with each other at the poem's center. In Ollie's poems, the rhymes are the beginning words of each line, and in Emma's poems, they are the end words." The middle line of each poem serves as the outside rhyme of the next. The detail and rhythm just helps to cultivate the feeling of change and motion of life. The poems cover the life of two families over about a year when they deal with the repercussions of war and sickness. They deal with the changes of society and their children and it is still written in a way that is approachable to students in grades 7-12.
This gorgeous collection of “cupped-hand” sonnets tells the story of two families whose lives are forever changed by World War I. Perhaps the most poignant poems, flowing like rushing water across the pages, are those from 18-year-old Muriel’s point of view. Outspoken Muriel questions the war and finds herself drawn more and more to her Aunt Vera’s suffragist cause. Other poems, shaped like river stones, are written from Muriel’s brother Ollie’s and her friend Emma’s perspectives. Ollie’s poems chronicle his brief experience in the war before an injury brings him home, and Emma’s point up the great loss her family has felt since her brother, Frank, was killed in the war. Both Emma’s and Ollie’s poems also reveal the tender feelings of first love blossoming between them. With care and precision, Frost deftly turns plainspoken conversations and the internal monologues of her characters into stunning poems that combine to present three unique and thoughtful perspectives on war, family, love and loss. Heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful, this is one to savor. (notes on form) (Historical fiction/poetry. 12 & up)
After working with students on strict forms an meters in poetry, I would like to use this as a good example of a different style of poetry. This form and structure is still formulaic but it is much more subtle than traditional poetry that is studied in class. I think this would a good way to show students that poetry isn't scary or boring.
Frost, H. (2009). Crossing Stones. New York: Frances Foster Books.
Unknown. (2009, September 15). Crossing Stones Review. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from Kirkus Reviews: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/childrens-books/helen-frost/crossing-stones/?spdy=2009