Module 14 Poetry and Story Collections
by Helen Frost
Muriel Jorgensen is an outspoken eighteen year old during World War I. She is reprimanded during school for speaking out against the war. When her long time friend and neighbor, Frank Norman leaves for the war she realizes how much she will miss him. Then her younger brother Ollie enlists and heads to basic training without telling the family. Muriel and Frank become pen pals and the army censors much of what he writes Muriel. Muriel’s Aunt actively speaks up for women’s rights and ends up in jail. The family battles illness and loss, but Muriel finds her place in the world.
Frost H. (2009). Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
My Impressions of the Book
Crossing Stones is a delightful read. It is written in verse and features the voices of Muriel, Ollie (her brother), and Emma (Frank’s sister). Muriel struggles to find her place and supports her aunt’s quest to earn the right to vote for women. In the novel her mother tells her “Maybe you won’t rock a cradle, Muriel. Some women seem to prefer to rock the boat” (35). Each of the poems ties in nicely with the next to form a cohesive and detailed story. Muriel’s poems stand out with a zigzag pattern that mimics the rushing water of the river.
The children of the Norman and Jorgensen families have grown up together, with their family farms located on either side of Crabapple Creek In 1917, the outbreak of World War I shatters their idyllic lives: strong-willed Muriel opposes it, but the two young men, Frank and her brother, Ollie, enlist and are soon sent overseas. Muriel's lively personality comes alive in free-verse poems that roam across the page like tie free-flowing waters of tie creek "My mind sets off at a gallop/down that. twisty road, flashes by 'Young Lady,'/hears the accusation in it-as if it's/a crime just being young, and 'lady'/is what anyone can see I'll never be/...." The poems of Ollie and friend Emma are written in "cupped-hand" sonnets; their rounded shapes resemble the crossing stones of tie creek and record their growing love. While tie young men find themselves amidst the horrors of trench warfare, their families attempt to cope with their absence. Muriel travels to Washington, DC, to be with her aunt Vera, a suffragist who is recovering from a hunger strike; joins picketers at tie While House; and helps out in a settlement house. Back home, youngest sister Grace comes down with influenza. Frost's warmly sentimental novel covers a lot of political, social, and geographical ground, and some of the supporting characters are not fully fleshed out. But this is Muriel's story, and her determined personality and independence will resonate with readers, especially those who've enjoyed the works of Karen Hesse. --Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library
Taniguchi, M. (2009, June). Crossing Stones. [Review of the book Crossing Stones, by H. Frost]. School Library Journal, 55, 10, 126.
Ideas for Library Use
In April create a poetry book display. Include Crossing Stones and be sure to add a variety of examples to fully represent the genre. Invite students to a poetry slam to allow students to express themselves and expose those new to poetry to the sound and rhythm of it.