Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow
Written by Helen Frost

Publisher’s Summary:
In a remote area of Alaska, twelve-year-old Willow helps her father with their sled dogs when she is not at school, wishing she were more popular, all the while unaware that the animals surrounding her carry the spirits of dead ancestors and friends who care for her.

Primary Source Pairing:
In this beautiful story of Willow and her beloved dog Roxy, we hear about Willow’s experiences with the help of many ancestors. The diamond shapes form on a variety of shrub bushes when the wood is injured. “As I understand it, a diamond forms in the sapwood at a place of injury, sickness, a place where a branch has fallen away,” Willow’s Dad explains (page 88). The significance of diamond willow branches in this story is purposeful and powerful.

For this primary source pairing, use two primary sources with students as they increase their background knowledge and process the story. The first image shows walking canes that have been created using diamond willow branches. These canes are similar to what Willow made in the book, although she fashioned her diamond willow branch into a lamp. The second primary source is a photograph taken by Carol M. Highsmith showing a dogsled in Colorado. Invite students to discuss these two images with the questions presented at the end of the book.

Questions for Discussion for Diamond Willow Cane:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?

Questions for Discussion of Dogsled Photograph:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Make a connection to this image and what you read in the book Diamond Willow.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Diamond Willow cane: Library of Congress
Dogsled Photograph: Library of Congress