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Frost, Helen 1949- (Helen Marie Frost)

Frost, Helen 1949- (Helen Marie Frost)

Personal

Born March 4, 1949, in Brookings, SD; married Chad Thompson, 1983; children: Lloyd (stepson), Glen. Education: Syracuse University, B.A.; Indiana University, M.A., 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, cross-country skiing, raising and releasing monarch butterflies, genealogy.

Addresses

Home—Fort Wayne, IN. E-mail—info@helenfrost.net.

Career

Educator and author. Kilquhanity House School (boarding school), Scotland, teacher, 1976-78; elementary school teacher/principal in Telida, AK, 1981-84, then Ketchikan, AK; Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, instructor. Fort Wayne Dance Collective, member of interdisciplinary artistic team, 1995-2006.

Awards, Honors

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 1992; Mary Carolyn Davies Award, Poetry Society of America, 1993; Women Poets Series Competition winner, Ampersand Press, 1993; Michael Printz Honor Book designation, American Library Association, 2004, for Keesha's House; Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor designation, 2007, for The Braid; several other awards and honors.

Writings

JUVENILE FICTION; NOVELS IN POEMS

Keesha's House (young-adult novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2003.

Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 (middle-grade novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.

The Braid (young-adult novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.

Diamond Willow (middle-grade novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2008.

JUVENILE NONFICTION

Monarch and Milkweed, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2008.

"BIRDS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Bird Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Nests, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Baby Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Families, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"BUTTERFLIES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Butterfly Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Caterpillars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Butterfly Colors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Monarch Butterflies, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"DENTAL HEALTH" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Going to the Dentist, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Food for Healthy Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Brushing Well, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Fruit Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Eating Right, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Vegetable Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Dairy Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Fats, Oils, and Sweets, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Drinking Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Grain Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Meat and Protein Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"WATER" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Keeping Water Clean, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Water Cycle, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Solid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Liquid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Gas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

We Need Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Books in series have been translated into Spanish.

"NATIONAL HOLIDAYS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Memorial Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Independence Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Presidents' Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"SENSES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Senses, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Smelling, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Touching, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Tasting, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Seeing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Hearing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"EMOTIONS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Feeling Sad, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Angry, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Scared, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Happy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"HUMAN BODY SYSTEMS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Circulatory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Respiratory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Nervous System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Muscular System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Skeletal System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Digestive System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"LOOKING AT SIMPLE MACHINES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

What Are Inclined Planes?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Levers?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Screws?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wedges?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wheels and Axles?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Pulleys?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"ALL ABOUT PETS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Cats, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Fish, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Hamsters, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Dogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Rabbits, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"INSECTS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Praying Mantises, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Walkingsticks, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Water Bugs, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Moths, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Wasps, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Cicadas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"OUR WORLD" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

A Look at China, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at France, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Kenya, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Russia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Japan, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Canada, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Australia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Mexico, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Egypt, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Cuba, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Germany, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Vietnam, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"RAIN FOREST ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Jaguars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Boa Constrictors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Gorillas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tree Frogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tarantulas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Parrots, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Lemurs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Chimpanzees, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Leaf-Cutting Ants, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Tigers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"COMING TO AMERICA" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

German Immigrants, 1820-1920, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Russian Immigrants, 1860-1949, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"FAMOUS AMERICANS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

John F. Kennedy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Sojourner Truth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Betsy Ross, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Thurgood Marshall, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"LET'S MEET" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Let's Meet Jackie Robinson, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meet Booker T. Washington, Chelsea Clubhouse (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meet Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

"WEATHER" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Ice, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Fog, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Snow, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Wind, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

"DINOSAURS AND PREHISTORIC ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Woolly Mammoth, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Triceratops, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Sabertooth Cat, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Allosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Stegosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Books in series have been translated into Spanish.

"HELPERS IN OUR COMMUNITY" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

We Need Auto Mechanics, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Plumbers, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need School Bus Drivers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Pharmacists, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.

"POLAR ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Snowy Owls, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Puffins, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Caribou, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Arctic Hares, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

FOR ADULTS

(Editor) Season of Dead Water (poetry and prose anthology), Breitenbush Books (Portland, OR), 1990.

Skin of a Fish, Bones of a Bird: Poems, Ampersand Press (Bristol, RI), 1993.

(Editor) Why Darkness Seems So Light: Young People Speak Out about Violence (also see below), Pecan Grove Press, 1998.

(With Harvey Cocks) Why Darkness Seems So Light (play; based on Frost's book of the same title), Pioneer Drama, 1999.

When I Whistle, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 2001.

Sidelights

In addition to her work as a teacher—she has taught students in Scotland, Vermont, and Alaska, as well as Indiana and, as a poet-in-residence, throughout the United States—Helen Frost is a poet and playwright as well as a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Frost's fictional works include the Michael J. Printz young-adult honor book Keesha's House as well as middle-grade novels such as Diamond Willow and the historical novel The Braid. Drawing on her experiences as a classroom teacher, Frost's numerous nonfiction contributions to informative series for elementary-grade students reflect her varied interests in science and history. In addition to writing for young people, Frost is also the author of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, a book that Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy contributor M.P. Cavanaugh explained is designed to "prepare teachers to work with students on sensitive issues and to provide nonviolent solutions to some of their problems."

Keesha's House, a novel-in-poems for older readers, focuses on seven inner-city teens whose lives are in turmoil until they find refuge in a home owned by a caring adult named Joe. Dubbed "Keesha's House" in honor of the first person to be welcomed there, Joe's home becomes a haven for pregnant teen Stephie; Katie, who is escaping her stepfather's sexual molestation; gay teen Harris, whose parents do not accept his sexual orientation; unhappy foster-child Dontay; Carmen, who is battling an addiction to alcohol; high-school basketball star Jason, who struggles between college and his responsibility as the father of Stephie's baby; and Keesha herself, whose father becomes violent with his children after their mother dies. Praised as a "moving" work containing "dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate" by Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, Keesha's House features sonnet and sestina verse forms that reflect contemporary speech, making the book easy going for those unfamiliar with poetry. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer found the work "thoughtfully composed and ultimately touching," while Michele Winship wrote in Kliatt that the poems in Keesha's House "weave together stories that depict the harsh reality of teenage life."

A book that "brings to life the voices and spirit of a fifth-grade classroom," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 contains verses that reflect the dreams, worries, enthusiasms, and day-to-day lives of Mrs. Williams's fifth-grade class. Each of the twenty-six students composes a poem in a different poetic form, waxing poetic on subjects ranging from a lost bicycle to the death of a parent. Characterized by the Publishers Weekly critic as "brief, deceptively casual poetic monologues," these poems are followed by a concluding chapter about reading and writing poetry. Poetic forms described by Frost include haiku, blank verse, sonnets, sestinas, rondelets, and other less-familiar forms. In fact, an entire section devoted to acrostics prompted School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock to note that "readers will enjoy decoding them to reveal an additional thought about each character." Bock dubbed Spinning through the Universe a "boon for poetry classes," while in Kirkus Reviews a critic wrote that Frost's use of "original imagery and understated, natural voices make these poems sensitive and insightful."

Frost moves from the present to the past in The Braid, transporting readers across the Atlantic to Scotland and back through time to the mid-nineteenth century. In Frost's evocative narrative poems, teenaged sisters Jeannie and Sarah speak of life on the remote island of Barra, in the Scottish Hebrides. When their family is forced from the lands they have occupied for years as part of the landholder's efforts to free up grazing pasture for sheep, Jeannie accompanies her parents on the arduous sea voyage to eastern Canada. Unwilling to leave her homeland, Sarah hides so that she can remain in Scotland and care for her elderly grandmother. The historic backdrop of the novel—the Highland Clearances—are not familiar to many North American readers, explained Janis Flint-Ferguson in her Kliatt review, and Frost's novel "gives voice to the tragic circumstances that populated Nova Scotia, Canada." In twin strands of poetry, the two sisters relate their sadness over the miles that separate them and describe the harsh and often tragic circumstances they encounter as a result of their choice. In these tales Frost interweaves "themes of home, shelter, and heritage, as well as the yearning for family wherever one lives," according to Rochman in Booklist. Paralleling the action in her tale, Frost employs a braid-like structure to her narrative: as the sisters alternate their stories, the last word of each line in one sister's poem becomes the first word in each line of the other sister's poem. Despite being so highly crafted, Frost's text reads with "such delicacy that few readers will note [the novel's] formal structure," asserted Horn Book reviewer Joanna Rudge Long, the critic adding that The Braid is "compellingly poignant" and its teen characters "courageous and well realized."

While Frost has become well known for her novels-in-poems for older readers, she has also written numerous series of early-reader nonfiction: short books presenting basic facts and information in a minimal text well-illustrated with photographs, maps, diagrams, and other artwork. With approximately twenty sentences per book, volumes such as A Look at France in the "Our World" series, and What Are Levers? in the "Looking at Simple Machines" series, were written to appeal to beginning scholars and use a simple vocabulary to convey rudimentary information. More detail is provided in Frost's contributions to the "Coming to America" series, designed for older readers. Praising the author's research in German Immigrants, 1820-1920 as "solid," Booklist reviewer Rochman added that the book serves young readers of German and Scandinavian ancestry as "a good place to start researching family history."

With her varied experiences as a teacher of at-risk students, Frost encourages teachers and librarians to recognize the value of both reading and writing poetry to young adults. "I bet half the teenagers I know have notebooks …," she explained to School Library Journal contributor Rick Margolis. "When I meet a group of 10 kids, I can almost guarantee that one of them is going to say, ‘I'm a poet,’ and bring in reams of poems the next week. And if I ask, ‘How many of you like to write poetry?’ at least half of them will say they do."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of German Immigrants, 1820-1920, p. 406; March 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Keesha's House, p. 1192; April 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, p. 1363; June 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of The Braid, p. 74; January 1, 2008, Carolyn Phelan, review of Monarch and Milkweed, p. 79.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Braid, p. 170.

Horn Book, November-December, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Braid, p. 709; July-August, 2008, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Diamond Willow, p. 444.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2002, M.P. Cavanaugh, review of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, p. 275.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 221; October 1, 2006, review of The Braid, p. 1014; February 1, 2008, review of Monarch and Milkweed; June 15, 2008, review of Diamond Willow.

Kliatt, March, 2003, Michele Winship, review of Keesha's House, p. 10; November, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of The Braid, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Season of Dead Water, p. 54; April 21, 2003, review of Keesha's House, p. 63; April 5, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 63; October 16, 2006, review of The Braid, p. 55.

School Library Journal, August, 2000, Pamela K. Bombay, review of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, p. 169; October, 2000, Carolyn Jenks, review of Drinking Water, p. 147; January, 2001, Judith Constantinides, review of Feeling Angry, p. 117; April, 2001, Dona J. Helmer, review of The Circulatory System, p. 130; August, 2001, Blair Christolon, review of What Are Levers?, p. 168; September, 2001, Karey Wehner, review of Moths, p. 214; December, 2001, Elizabeth Talbot, review of A Look at Russia, p. 121; June, 2002, Ann W. Moore, review of A Look at France, p. 120; October, 2002, Linda Ludke, review of A Look at Canada, p. 144; October, 2003, Jennifer Ralston, review of Keesha's House, p. 99; November, 2003, Michele Shaw, review of Betsy Ross, p. 125; April, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 154; April, 2004, review of Keesha's House, p. 64; October, 2006, Rick Margolis, "A Gentle Frost," interview, p. 38, and Jill Heritage Maza, review of The Braid, p. 154; January, 2008, Heidi Estrin, review of Monarch and Milkweed, p. 104; June, 2008, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Diamond Willow, p. 140.

ONLINE

Helen Frost Home Page,http://www.helenfrost.net (October 27, 2008).

Autobiography Feature

Helen Frost

Helen Frost contributed the following autobiographical essay to SATA:

1. Brookings, South Dakota—1949-56

In the 100 years before I was born, my ancestors traveled from Scotland, Denmark, Norway, and England to Prince Edward Island, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In those same 100 years, the place I was born changed from being the home of the Lakota Sioux and magnificent herds of buffalo, to being claimed and settled by immigrants from far-off places. Like all children, I was born not knowing any of this. I am still learning what it means.

I was born in Brookings, South Dakota, on March 4, 1949—in the middle of a century, in the middle of a continent, and, as it would turn out, in the middle of a large family. I was the fifth daughter of Reuben ("Jack") and Jean Frost, in a family that would eventually include ten children. I remember learning to walk, standing on wobbly legs as my parents and older sisters stood in a circle around me with outstretched arms, asking, "Whose girl are you?" Later, as the circle expanded, I became one of the people reaching out to a younger sister or brother, encouraging their first steps.

My memories of those early years are happy. My older sisters taught me to ride a tricycle, climb trees, make doll clothes. They stuck up for me if one of the neighbor kids was mean; they pushed me on the tire swing Dad hung from the apple tree; they wrapped me in a blanket and held me close as we sang around a campfire at the end of a picnic at Oakwood Park; they read to me; showed me how to write, draw, and roller skate.

I know we must have argued, because one of my grandmother's expressions was "quit your scrapping" (or, as I remember it, "kwitcherscrappin," twin to my father's "kwitcherbellyachin"), but we all knew we were secure, loved, and listened to.

Although my aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and cousins didn't live in Brookings, we got together frequently, and they were important to me. When I was three, my cousin was hospitalized with polio and all the grownups were preoccupied with that. Listening to their conversation, I looked up and asked my uncle, "How is Ruth

Mary?" I still remember him kneeling down and answering my question with honesty and clarity, though he was also careful, I realize now, not to frighten me.

One other very early memory, or maybe it is a family story told so often I feel I can remember it: When I was two, our family was sitting in the front row of the balcony at church and I threw my snow pants over the railing. My fast-thinking, quick-acting father reached out and caught them by the strap on one finger, much to the suppressed amusement of everyone sitting behind us and the good luck of those in the pews below.

When I ask my mother, now ninety years old, for her memories of me as a young child, she recalls, "You were always interested in everything. You wanted to try everything. Jack and I enjoyed watching you grow up and become able to do all those things you'd been trying to do."

I was especially interested in the natural world. I loved being outdoors: I caught tadpoles and watched them grow into frogs; I watched ants go in and out of their anthills; I caught fireflies in jars on summer evenings. I teased my sister by dangling spiders in front of her face (I said I was a happy child; I didn't say I was a perfect angel).

Monarch butterflies were magical to me, as they still are today, though at that time I collected them, rather than protecting them as I do now. My father made me a butterfly net; my mother showed me how to capture butterflies and put alcohol on a piece of Kleenex tucked into the jar lid so they would die quickly with a minimum of damage to their wings.

My father made me a mounting board, and found special straight pins for me to use in mounting butterflies and other insects. When I was three, my parents took me to the entomology lab at South Dakota State College: drawers and cases full of beetles, butterflies, dragonflies and walkingsticks. I learned the word "entomologist," and started telling people I was going to be one when I grew up.

Maybe that was how I began to be a poet, by savoring that intricate word, "entomologist," equally with the insects I so loved, fascinated both by the things of the world and the discovery that they had names: snapping turtle, campanile, Skinner's Butte, cistern, ugly mutt. I

was also interested in abstract words that carried weight and power—"enemy" is one I remember thinking about, and "sin," and "wicked."

My father told us stories. He used our names for his characters, animal or human, hero or villain, and we made a game of staying at the edges of the room so as not to be "caught" listening, and thus having a ferocious monster or nasty old pirate named after us. Once the character was named, though, we'd come in close to hear the story, climbing into Dad's lap or hanging on the back and arms of his chair. Later I learned that his storytelling was also an expression of love for my mother—that he was "keeping us out of her hair" while she got dinner ready or soothed a fussy baby. He invented his stories as he went along, sometimes pausing and letting us fill in the details: the joyful education of the imagination.

The line between imagination and real life remained hazy for me for quite a while. Summer evenings after supper, someone might say "Let's go for a ride." We would all pile into the station wagon and drive out into the countryside, just for the fun of it. I must have dreamed that I played on the clouds with my sisters, bouncing and sliding around on them, because I remember thinking, when I got a little older, maybe six or seven, "We haven't played on the clouds for a long time." And then, at some point, I realized we never really could have done that.

Even before I could write, I liked to pretend I could, scribbling what looked to me like grownup handwriting, and reading what I thought I had written. Someone gave us a big box of "shiny paper" and my mother kept it on a high shelf in the hall closet. It seemed to be an infinite supply, always there for the asking, like Ritz crackers and water. "Mom," we'd say, running in from playing outdoors, "can I have a drink and a cracker?" Or, on a rainy day, "Can I have some shiny paper?"

We had a shoebox full of broken crayons, with their papers peeling off, a metal pencil sharpener half-buried in the mix of shavings at the bottom of the box. I remember the smell of that box and the smell of crayons melting on a hot radiator. Once, when my parents and older sisters went to Niagara Falls, I stayed with my grandmother for a week, and she bought me a box of sixteen new crayons—a whole box, all to myself—and made me an apron with sixteen little pockets to put them in.

In Brookings, from an early age, we were free to roam the neighborhood. At noon every day, the local power plant blew a whistle. Our mother, and the neighbor kids' mothers, sent us out to play with the instructions to "come home at the twelve-o'clock whistle."

I don't want to stop writing about my early childhood: The dead turtle I dug out of the mud when I was five (my father helped me extract the turtle so I could keep the shell); the fistfuls of dandelions we'd bring to my mother (she would stop whatever she was doing to put them in a jar of water); the porch off our second-floor bedroom that my sisters would dare me to climb out on, and then down the trellis to the great waiting night ("you'll be a daredevil if you do it"); our neighbor "Crazy Jim" who once dragged a dog down the street by its ears; ribbon candy at Christmas; ghost costumes for Halloween; the IXL store owned by Judy Billings' uncle, who gave us free popsicles on hot summer days; a broken collar bone; a deep cut on my knee; mumps and measles; Grandma Viney staying with us each time a new baby was born; weeding the vegetable garden; climbing the apple trees; my sister biting a neighbor girl; Dad learning to fly small airplanes and flying over our house ("waggle your wings at us," we'd beg before he left); X-ray machines in the shoe store. This list could go on for pages.

But I have a whole life ahead of me. It's time to go to school.

There was a tradition in Brookings each spring, a day called "Visiting Day," where every kindergartner could bring a four year old to school for one day. We would talk about it and plan it out years in advance: "My big sister can bring your sister, and then she can bring me, and then I'll bring your little brother." By the time Leslie Billings brought me to Visiting Day, I was very excited about starting school. My mother had promised that I could get a library card on my first day of school, and going to Visiting Day with Leslie meant that day was right around the corner.

On the way home from the first day of kindergarten, I proudly stopped at the Brookings Public Library, up the steps of the red-brick building on the corner, through the door, to the left, down the stairs, to the children's section in the basement. The librarian, Miss Ruby Jarman, already knew that I was a "Frost girl" and that I loved insects; from that very first day I got my library card, she began to suggest books she thought I'd like, and she was usually right. A card in the back of each book had the signatures of each person who had checked out the book, and stamps of all the dates on which the book had been due—like a simple book review system, if I saw names of people I knew and admired, perhaps children a few years older than I was, I wanted to read the same book they had read.

I loved kindergarten—finger-painting on big sheets of paper, playing with a giant set of dominoes (so big we had to hold one domino in both hands), circle games ("Farmer in the Dell," "Skip to My Lou," "Go in and out the Window"), rest time (I remember lying on a towel in a patch of sunlight, the teacher leaning down to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear), and story time (Millions of Cats, The Story of Ping, Make Way for Ducklings).

One day I broke down in tears of frustration—the teacher couldn't see what was so hard about what she had asked of us; all the other children were happily completing the project, while I sniffled and complained that I'd never get it done. When my mother came to pick me up, the teacher expressed surprised concern about my behavior.

"What were they supposed to do?" my mother asked.

"Just a simple task—draw a picture of your family."

My mother laughed and explained why I may have found that daunting—our family by that time numbered nine people.

At home, I loved to go down in the basement and be with my father in his workshop. He built a dresser, a picnic box, benches for our kitchen table, a rocking horse, a toy stove—his work was solid, precisely measured, not decoratively elegant, but full of functional detail that will last for generations. His motto was "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right." If we were in the workshop when Dad got hungry (or maybe when he thought we were), he had a bowl of walnuts and pecans that he would crack open with a hammer and share with us. Sometimes he peeled oranges and gave us each a section.

2. Eugene, Oregon, and Back to Brookings—1956-60

The summer after I was in first grade, we moved from South Dakota to Eugene, Oregon, for one school year so that my father, at the age of fifty-three, could complete his Ph.D. in Physical Education. (His undergraduate degree was in Classics, but he had been, as well as a teacher, a basketball and baseball coach, an umpire, a referee, and an athletic director.) My parents sold our big house at 202 Fifth Street and managed to get all the accumulated belongings of nine people pared down to what would fit into a station wagon and a box-like trailer we called "The Monster." It seemed to us that our parents were ruthless as they threw our treasures into an old cistern in the backyard and then put the cover back on the cistern and sealed it up—"No you can't keep your rock collection. You can choose one doll and one other toy. Here is a drawstring bag for your clothes."

At least it was a chance to get rid of the "Coach, That's My Dad!" T-shirts that I hated—someone at a coaching conference gave a bunch of them to Dad and we wore them because they were free; I hated people "reading me" when I wore one. (I still don't like to wear clothes that say things on them.)

We gave up a lot of our treasures during that move. The attic in Keesha's House—the turtle shell, my favorite Lennon Sisters paper dolls—is, in part, based on the memory of what we left behind in the attic of that house. We were supposed to get it all back when we returned, but for some reason, we never did. I wonder if some other child living in the house in the years since then explored the attic and found my butterfly net.

We took two weeks to drive to Oregon, camping along the way—we saw the Badlands, the Black Hills, Yellowstone Park; we went over a pass in the Rocky Mountains with "The Monster" swaying dangerously behind us. It was on that trip that I got the nickname "R.K." for "Reckless Kid." I loved walking away from our campsites to go exploring. I wanted to put my hand into the geysers and hot springs at Yellowstone to see if they were really hot. At a rest area in Yellowstone, a family of black bears seemed friendly enough that I held out a lifesaver on my hand. I was excited when one of the bear cubs approached to accept my gift. "Whose child is that?!" roared the park ranger, and my parents had to acknowledge that I was theirs.

The year in Oregon was a big adventure. I discovered the Pacific Ocean, Agate Beach, and Crater Lake. Perhaps more important, I learned that I could move to a new place, learn my way around, and make new friends. We lived near Julian's Bakery, where they sold day-old bread, "five loaves for a dollar," and I loved to be entrusted with a dollar to walk down the street and bring home those five loaves. Years later, when I was in Eugene as an adult, I came out of my hotel and smelled a deeply familiar smell—it was Julian's Bakery, and from the aroma of baking bread, I had a complete mental map of the neighborhood—I went for a walk and found the place our house had been, and knew the way to my friend Terry's house and the way to Condon Elementary School, where I attended second grade.

In October of that year, my brother Dick was born. Until that time, I had been reticent about participating in "Show and Tell" at school, but when I whispered the news to my teacher, she said to the class, "I think Helen has some news to share with us this morning."

I reluctantly got up and said, "We have seven girls and we finally got a boy." The whole class gasped in appreciation, and I was hooked—after that, I had something to say almost every day, and I have rarely been nervous about public speaking since.

That year, I discovered that I could read chapter books, and I wrote my first poems. The poems were nothing remarkable, mostly playing around with little rhymes like "chalk, walk, talk," but I valued them enough to illustrate them, copy them out into a handmade book (construction paper tied with yarn), titled, "My Poem Book, by Helen Frost" and give the book to my sister Barbie for Christmas. A year later, I found the poems embarrassing, which I see now as a good thing; I was learning to see the difference between "what I used to write" and "what I can do now," and to wonder if I could write something better.

I also enjoyed writing letters to my grandmothers. Initially, of course, my mother made me do it, but then it became something I liked to do. Some of those letters have been returned to me, saved first by my grandmothers, then by my parents, for forty or fifty years. My grandfathers both died before my parents were married, and my grandmothers both lived with other single women relatives. I once shortened the salutation of a letter to my mother's mother, whose first name was Viney, writing "Dear Viney Family" to save the trouble of spelling out "Dear Grandma Viney, Auntie, and Aunt Margaret."

We returned to Brookings after our year in Oregon, and lived in a new house in a different neighborhood. I made friends with a new group of neighbor kids, and walked to school with them in third, fourth, and fifth grades.

It is fifth grade that stands out in my memory. Many of the poems in Spinning through the Universe have their seeds in the events of that year. There was a girl everyone made fun of; a girl who was kind to her; constantly shifting boundaries of friendship and belonging; boys and girls just beginning to express interest in one another. We loved to ride our bikes around town, and when someone's cat had kittens, everyone else begged their parents to let them keep one.

I walked to and from school that year with a group of friends: Kristin, Tink, and Ann, and sometimes one or two others. There was an alley on the way home with a huge bell, and we dared each other to ring the bell as we ran past. A group of boys we called "the chasers" ran after us—I don't recall that they ever caught us, and I don't think we, or they, would have known what to do if they did. But running from the chasers and ringing "Nellie Bell" felt dangerous and thrilling.

We sometimes stopped at a candy store on the way home. I didn't get an allowance, which was a problem for me: when other kids bought candy, should I accept some when they shared, even though I never had money to buy and share myself? I bristled at the comment of one of the girls, "It's okay if you don't buy candy, Helen. We understand that you have so many kids in your family that your parents can't afford it." We weren't poor, and I knew that—we had enough of everything we needed—but I didn't ask for "extras." I think now that my parents would have given me money if I had explained the problem, but I never told them. Once, I told my older sister Margaret, who gave me some of her babysitting money so I could buy candy. I recall that now as one of many examples of having "enough" in my life—enough food, enough love, enough rest and outdoor fun, and enough understanding and kindness, from many sources.

3. Wilbraham, Massachusetts—1960-67

At the end of fifth grade we moved again when my father accepted a job at Springfield College, in Springfield, Massachusetts. We were leaving a lot behind, not just for a year this time, but "for good" (an interesting expression). My grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the Midwest—no more summers together at Lake Kabekona in northern Minnesota, or weekend trips to visit relatives. No more evening drives through the South Dakota cornfields; it would be years until I lived near cornfields again, as an adult in Indiana—the chirping of crickets, the flash of fireflies always bring back these memories of my childhood.

I was also leaving behind the sense of neighborhood that children develop when they play outdoors, back and forth from one house to another. I drew on memories of this experience of community when I was writing The Braid; I knew how it felt to leave everything behind and imagined how it must have been in 1840, when there were no telephones, airplanes, or e-mail, and letters took a long time, even if people could read and write, which the characters in The Braid could not.

We moved to a house in Wilbraham, a suburb of Springfield, and I began sixth grade in another new school. An old cemetery near our house had headstones marking the lives of people who had lived up to two hundred years before. I loved walking there, imagining the stories between the dates. "1877-1881" it might say, beneath a carved lamb or a cherubic angel, and I would wonder how the child had died, think about her parents and siblings, see if their graves were nearby. Many New England houses had dates affixed to their front doors; it seemed that history had been going on longer in Massachusetts than it had in South Dakota. Not true, of course, but I was essentially oblivious to all the history in both places that had occurred before the recent arrival of my own ancestors.

Until I was sixteen, I was also somewhat oblivious to the existence of nonwhite and non-Christian Americans. Our family had a few friends from other countries, but in my suburban schools, there were no minority students. This was an impoverishment in my growing-up years. I read newspapers, and saw television reports about the civil rights movement—the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, the Birmingham church bombing—and I was incensed at the injustice of segregation and racism, but it seemed far away. I thought of segregation as something that happened in the south; I was not very deeply aware that I, along with everyone I knew, was a victim of "de facto segregation." Segregation "in fact," if not by law, kept me apart from many people who might have been my friends.

Junior high was a time of self-definition in so many ways. I wasn't always clear about who I was or who I wanted to be. I'd been a Girl Scout in Brookings, and joined again when we moved to Wilbraham—but when one of the "popular kids" in seventh grade told me that being a Girl Scout was not cool, and nobody would like me if I was one, I dropped out. I was grateful to her for sharing this information with me—if someone was willing to tell me how to be cool, I was willing to listen. Okay, I was clueless: I must have worn my Girl Scout uniform to school—how else would she have known? But still, it annoys me that some people believe they can take it upon themselves to define what is okay and what is not okay for other people.

Better than "cool" were the substantive friendships I formed with girls my age, doing interesting things together outside of school. I joined a "Stamp Club," a group of five girls who met at Cindy Wales' house on Friday evenings. We'd spread our stamp collections across her dining room table, trading and comparing stamps and noting details about geography, history, foreign languages. Glassine envelopes, tweezers, books with pictures of all the stamps from different countries—what a sweet memory: five thirteen-year-old girls peering through magnifying glasses to discern watermarks and the dates of postmarks. I lost touch with those girls when they all went to a private high school, but years later, Cindy and I met again, and the friendship we had shared in junior high was easy to rekindle.

I went to Minnechaug Regional High School, where I took college prep classes and participated in lots of extracurricular activities: vocal music, drama, synchronized swimming, yearbook, school newspaper. (Many of these things that are scheduled as classes in most high schools today were after-school activities that met once or twice a week, so it was possible to do several of them at once.) Working on the school literary magazine was my first experience of a shared community of writers, an experience I have found or created everywhere I have lived since then.

During the summers of high school and college, I worked at summer camps—two summers at Camp Frederick Edwards (or "Freddy Eddy"), two summers at Camp Calumet Lutheran, two summers at day camps in Springfield (one for emotionally disturbed children), and one at an overnight camp in the Berkshires for wealthy children from New York City.

Freddy Eddy was a camp for children who were growing up in poverty. In my work there, beginning the summer I was sixteen, I came to realize that not everyone had, as I did, two parents, a safe and comfortable home, the expectation of going to college, enough to eat—enough of everything, actually. I began to recognize the sheer luck of it all. I saw how poverty can make it difficult for people to become, in the words I gave to Keesha at the end of Keesha's House, "who they are meant to be."

I still remember those children's names—they were only three years younger than I was, so they are as old as my husband, and we would be peers now, but in my mind they are still: Eileen, screaming about Ringo Starr one day, and the next day running away from camp, walking miles down the road before we found her; brave Sylvia going out into the dark night on a camping trip to prove that there was nobody hiding behind a nearby tree, and running back screaming, "There IS someone there!" causing pandemonium in the tent where eight thirteen-year-old girls and their sixteen-year-old counselor had been telling ghost stories; Deb who didn't like me; Kathy who did; Louise sneaking out to see the boys. And the boys themselves—Eddie, who made me a jewelry box out of popsicle sticks, is the one I remember best.

I became friends with the other teenagers on the camp staff. It was good for me to know another group of people my age, people who didn't know me as my "school self." I was completely taken by surprise when a boy liked me, and I liked him too, though my first forays into romance were not exactly handled with self-assured aplomb. I suspect this is true for most people—there's a lot to learn about that aspect of social life and it's not easy to learn it. Fun and exciting, but not easy.

Two of the boy counselors I knew at Camp Freddy Eddy died before the end of high school. Jimmy, whose beautiful sister Chris was also my friend, shot himself a few months before graduation. He was handsome and popular and friendly; I have no idea what went wrong. Chuck died when he walked across a freeway—whether it was suicide or an accident no one could be sure. I thought about Chuck when I was writing Harris's poems in Keesha's House; in fact, when I planned that book, I thought Harris would commit suicide, and I intended to have blank pages in the rest of the book wherever Harris would have told his story. It would have been a way to express what I felt about the deaths of several friends in high school, the indelible absence of their voices for the rest of our lives. But when I brought my memories of Chuck from the 1960s into the 1990s, the aspect of him that was tormented about (perhaps) being gay took a different path. Where Chuck never knew how to respond to that kind of meanness, and had no allies or support structure, Harris found ways to protect himself. There was no way Harris would have killed himself; I was glad to discover that about him.

At home during my teen years, I was very much a "middle child"—my older sisters were in college, coming home only occasionally (sometimes with boyfriends they eventually married, or didn't marry); I'd often babysit the "three little kids" at home, and babysit for other people when I was not needed at home.

When I was a junior in high school, my grandmother died, and my parents left me in charge of the five younger children (ages six to fourteen) for a week while they drove from Massachusetts to Minnesota and back for the funeral. It seems like a lot of responsibility for someone so young—they hadn't had time to leave us with many groceries or any precooked meals—but I don't remember being overwhelmed by it. My mother told me later that the younger children were my chaperones as much as I was their babysitter—how much trouble can a teenager get into with a bunch of little kids watching her every move?

4. College, Syracuse University—1967-71

I went to Syracuse University because they had a good journalism school, but before I ever took a journalism course, I met the poets—the professors (Philip Booth, W.D. Snodgrass), the graduate students (Bob Foster, Don Mager, Barb Feldman), and the undergraduates (Denise O'Meara, Ingrid Thompson, Bob Ward). Again, I found my community among creative writers, and that community expanded and became central in my college life. I never did take a journalism class.

I didn't major in creative writing either—there was no such major for undergraduates. When I was looking for a way to fulfill a math requirement as painlessly as possible, I came across a course called "Mathematics for Elementary Teachers" taught by Robert Davis. "Wow, it counts as a requirement," I thought, and I enrolled. Bob Davis not only taught me to love math, he got me excited about teaching, which I had previously rejected as a potential career on the basis of a statement my father had made: "Teaching is a good career for a woman …;" he said; "you can do it wherever your husband is."

If he had put that another way, "Teaching is a flexible job; teachers have the freedom to travel and see the world," I might have been interested. But in the late 1960s, enough feminist rhetoric had found its way to my ears that I had no intention of planning my life around this mythical husband I might meet someday. Certainly, I did not accept the idea that a woman (or "a good wife") would automatically follow her husband wherever his career led them both.

But then there was this class—mathematics as a way of discerning pattern (hey, wasn't that also what poetry was doing?), math as a way of engaging children (what if I'd had teachers who taught math this way?), and, in 1968, the first ideas about how to use computers in schools. There was a (!) computer on campus available to students, and Dr. Davis expected us to make use of it. He arranged for children from local schools to come to the campus for tutoring sessions, and encouraged us to show them how to use computers.

I loved teaching. I became an elementary education major, and Bob Davis added my name to his extensive file of people he put in touch with one another. He told us about schools in England where they used an "integrated day" curriculum—a project-based model where learning was not broken down into subjects, but students learned integrally, naturally, organically. When I was ready to do my student teaching, he helped me arrange to do it at such a school.

Those years I was a college student, 1967-1971, were years of great cultural change. It was an interesting time to be a young adult, breaking out of adolescence into adulthood at the same time the world was breaking open, or so it seemed to us. I became outspoken in my feminism, in my advocacy for children's rights and for changes in schools, in my support of civil rights and my opposition to the war in Vietnam. Although some of my most strident positions have since been tempered with deeper thought and life experience, they formed a solid platform from which to make the decisions that launched me into my adult life.

I was also a little goofy (some might say more than a little). I once strung popcorn from one earring to the other, like a necklace, and wore that to a Buffy St. Marie concert. (I met a lot of hungry people that evening.) I found outlandish clothes at thrift stores—an oversize black wool coat with elaborate braiding on the shoulders, a blue knit dress with the initials IHG embroidered on it (I delighted in making up different responses when people asked me what that stood for), and perhaps my greatest joy, a pair of white roller skates—picture me roller-skating to classes in my long black coat. Or, in jeans and a flannel shirt, skinny enough that I was often asked if I was a boy or a girl, which I thought was great—I loved being "ambiguous," just as I loved asymmetry—I'd cut my hair long on one side and short on the other, or wear two different shoes. My roommate was an art major, and she inspired me to join her in creating "food art" such as scarves stained with coffee, ketchup, grape juice, and blueberries, which we gave to friends as Christmas gifts.

Strobe lights, incense, black light posters, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones—all that was in the culture around me, and I enjoyed it (or, as we would have said, "I dug it"), but it was at the periphery of my college experience, not central to it.

And what was central? Children and poetry.

Three or four times a week, I walked from the Syracuse University campus, to a housing project about a mile away to work at Wilson Park, an after-school recreation center where I taught arts and crafts in a little room in the basement. The first year, 1967, the entire staff was white, while all the children were black. Three years later, all of my supervisors and fellow staff members were black.

I learned that the color named "flesh" in a crayon box was not the color of everyone's flesh; that a band-aid did not blend with the color of everyone's skin. One afternoon, a boy came in waving a Sears catalogue. He passed it around, showing everyone one page: "Look at the color of this girl." It was the first time any of us had seen a black model in any mainstream publication.

I was working at Wilson Park in April, 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. The days that followed were challenging. A boy named Michael, usually cheerful and sunny, greeted me on my first day back at work after the assassination with a hard glare: "The white people killed Martin Luther King," he said.

"But Michael," I protested, "I didn't kill him."

"White people did," he answered. I began to think more deeply about what that meant, what responsibility I did bear for the stubborn persistence of inequality in my country. When I linked arms with others to sing "We Shall Overcome," it was with a sense of determination, and whatever optimism I could muster, but I saw the mountain, and knew that the climb was steep.

In the fall of 1970, we had an African culture night at Wilson Park with African cooking and music. My supervisor ordered a sewing machine and yards and yards of beautiful African cloth and I helped all the children, and many of the staff, make dashikis. They were beautiful, all together on the stage, children and adults singing and dancing together.

It was the first of many times in my life when I have stepped outside of the cultural milieu of my family background and found acceptance and richness among people who could easily have dismissed me as "other," but chose not to do so.

5. Travel, Young-Adult Years—1970-80

When it came time to do my student teaching, I traveled across the Atlantic for the first time and found my way to Julian's Primary School, in Streatham, England (just outside London), the school that Bob Davis had told me about where teachers were using the "Integrated Day" approach. The whole semester was a great adventure. I stayed in a bed-and-breakfast at first, and learned to drink tea; then I moved into a "flat" of my own, using all my thrift-store experience to furnish it.

I loved the school—children learned to read by reading, they learned math and science by using math in their science projects, and they learned to write by writing about math and science and history, as well as by writing stories and poems. One teacher started the year with blank walls and encouraged the students to put up their art work, math graphs, stories, history reports and science project posters. When the walls were filled, the students put up new work on top of the old work, so by the time I arrived in January, the work was several layers deep, and the classroom had a well-established culture. It was a joyful, active place, with lots of simultaneous conversations and activities.

I had applied for a number of teaching jobs before I left for England, and in April, an assistant superintendent called me from Hingham, Massachusetts, to offer me a job. He was impressed that I was doing my student teaching in England; he seemed to like the progressive philosophy of the school, and in that brief transatlantic job interview, we established that I would be a sixth-grade teacher, working cooperatively with two other teachers. I didn't discover until I showed up to begin teaching, full of idealistic enthusiasm, that neither the other two sixth-grade teachers nor the principal understood or shared my ideas about teaching.

I believed that children could be disciplined without rewards and punishment and that such self-discipline formed an essential groundwork for true learning. I believed that children and adults deserved respect—that respect should be a given, not something to be earned. I believed that learning should come from within and grow outward as each child discovers how to make a contribution to the world. I knew that it was my job to like, and perhaps even love, every child in my classroom.

I found that the school, like many schools, was structured around assumptions that were in direct opposition to those beliefs, and I was not yet strong enough to stand up against the pressure to conform ("Miss Frost might not punish you," said another teacher to one of my students who had committed the crime of bouncing a ball while he was lining up to go in from recess, "but I will.") I could neither change my beliefs in order to be effective as a teacher within that system, nor gain the experience I needed quickly enough to implement them. I taught sixth grade until Columbus Day, when, under some pressure from administrators, I resigned. It was a frightening and discouraging experience, a feeling that I did not belong in a world I had hoped to be a part of. It helps me understand children who do not feel that they belong in the school system, or young people like some of the characters in Keesha's House who face rejection and other obstacles as they try to find their place in the world.

Although Spinning through the Universe drew on that experience, as well as subsequent, more successful, teaching, Mrs. Williams, the teacher in Room 214, is

not based on myself as a teacher. Perhaps she is a version of the teacher I tried, and try, to be. The room number represents Valentines Day; it is a room of love.

After I left Hingham, I moved several times and had a number of different jobs, some part time and some full time—working at the Boston College Library, teaching in a preschool playgroup, working for the U.S. Census Bureau, substitute teaching, making stuffed animals and selling them at craft fairs.

Eventually, I came to rest in Burlington, Vermont, where I was offered a delightful job as a teacher at the Starksboro Meeting House Preschool and Kindergarten, a parent cooperative run by like-minded people who appreciated my vision and love of children. The parents of the children became my friends and I found support as I grew more confident in my teaching. I often stayed in the home of Pebble and Turner Brooks on a piece of beautiful Vermont farmland known as "The Peaceable Kingdom," where I met Posie (Edith Thacher) and Clem Hurd, and saw them at work on their books, many of which were dedicated to the children I taught in the preschool.

It was a part-time job, so I had time to continue writing poetry. Again, I found a community of writers in Burlington. We held open readings at an old firehouse on Main Street once a month. None of us had much money, so we shared books and got together to talk about them: Paterson, by William Carlos Williams; Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Songs and A Song of Despair. I read Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Muriel Rukeyser, and began to see that I was included in a rich tradition of women poets. My first published poem since high school appeared in an anthology created by the Firehouse Poets Mimeo Cooperative.

I lived in Vermont for two years, and then applied to Kilquhanity House School, a progressive boarding school in Scotland that I had heard about while I was doing my student teaching. I was hired as a housemother and a teacher at "Killy," as the school was known, and I taught there for two and a half years. The school, begun in the 1930s by John and Morag Aitkenhead, who had worked with A.S. Neill at Summerhill, was based on democratic principles; we had a council meeting each week where every child and adult had a vote on any issue that anyone at the school wanted to bring to the meeting. Neill's book, Summerhill, had helped shape my sense of what teaching could be, and I learned a lot by working with others to put my ideas into practice. Many of the characters in my books are drawn more precisely because of children and teens I knew and loved at Killy.

It was while I was working at Killy that I spent the summer of 1977 on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles) of Scotland. I set off with a backpack, taking a train to Oban and a ferry to Castlebay, stopping briefly at Lochboisdale. I pitched my tent on a beautiful piece of land where I could see the ferries come and go, and watch seals and otters at play. A middle-aged couple with a little black dog walked by my tent every day, sometimes bringing me scones or gingerbread—I realize now that they were keeping an eye on me; people who live on a small island would be aware of a young woman camping by herself for six weeks. After I got to know them a bit, they told me that they guessed I was a teacher.

For a few weeks that summer, I was joined by my friend, Collette, another Kilquhanity teacher. In talking with a man who owned the uninhabited island of Mingulay at that time, she received an invitation for the two of us to spend a week camping there, which we enthusiastically accepted. Mingulay is a beautiful island, with a sandy beach laced with tiny seashells on one side, and on the other side, the roar of the wild sea crashing against 750-foot cliffs, home to a puffin colony and raucous with gannets, cormorants, and gulls.

In 1977, the houses in the abandoned village were still more or less intact, and as I looked inside them, I wondered about the history of the people who had lived there. Twenty-five years later, when I began to write The Braid, the sights, sounds, smells, and weather of the island all came back to me, accompanied by a mix of nostalgia, curiosity, and mystery.

6. Alaska and a Few Side Trips—1979-91

By December, 1978, my brothers and sisters were all adults, living all over the United States and other parts of the world. We had a family reunion that year, and I came home from Scotland just in time to be present for it. All but four of us were married by then, and five of my sisters had children, ranging in age from a few months to eight years. More children for me to know and love—eventually, I would have twenty-two nieces and nephews, in addition to my own children—but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After my father retired in 1974, my parents moved to Colorado, where they lived in a home with a beautiful view of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains. The winter and spring of 1979, they were living in Texas for a few months, and my brother and I stayed in their house while they were gone. I spent those months writing and thinking about what I might do next. I applied for summer jobs in Alaska, and was hired as the breakfast host-

ess at McKinley National Park (now called Denali National Park). I worked at the park for two summers—I hiked up mountains, waded through glacial rivers, had a few too-close encounters with grizzly bears, picked blueberries, watched the northern lights, made many new friends, and decided that I wanted to live in Alaska.

I spent one winter in Fairbanks, teaching at a preschool and taking classes in order to get my Alaska teaching certificate. I chose courses in cross-cultural education, which were helpful the following year when I began teaching at a one-teacher school in Telida, an Athabascan community of about twenty-five people, located on the Swift Fork of the Kuskokwim River, in the shadow of Mount McKinley. That first year, I had five students, one in each grade from kindergarten to grade four.

There were no roads into Telida—people came and went by boat in the summer, by snowmobile or dog-sled in the winter, and by small plane whenever the weather allowed. There was a regularly scheduled mail plane once a week; when it came in, most people in Telida went down to the landing strip to see who or what it was bringing. On the day the mail plane brought me, the new teacher, everyone was welcoming and helpful, carrying everything I brought with me to the log house that was to be my home for the next three years ("What you got all them junks for?" Johnny asked, referring to all the things I had packed, knowing there was no store in Telida).

The children wondered, I learned later, where my own family was, and why I was joining theirs—how would a single woman fit into this community, where all the children were cousins, and "Big Grandma" was either a grandmother or great-grandmother to all the children I taught. "Small Grandma," a generation older than "Big Grandma," was the widow of Carl Seseui, who was five years old when an army expedition was lost near Telida. Carl saw the unusual tracks of horses and army boots and asked his father what kind of animal made them. This led to the rescue of the army expedition; people in Telida clothed them, fed them for two months, and led them to safety.

I loved teaching those beautiful children, and of course I learned more than I taught. In the gentlest possible way, without ever making me feel ignorant, the children and adults taught me to read bird and animal tracks in the snow (spruce hen, ptarmigan, marten, moose, bear, lynx, otter, arctic fox), to recognize where a moose had bedded down for the night, to treat animals respectfully so that they might want to give themselves to us for our food, where to find blueberries and cranberries, what beavers eat and how they store food for the winter, how to sew moose hide with three-cornered needles, where the old village used to be, and why the people who lived there moved downriver to the present location.

I also learned how difficult it can be to live in a culture different from your own: where I had learned that "making eye contact" was a sign of respect, in Telida, people did not to look into another person's eyes; I had to learn not to ask direct questions, and to pause longer than I was accustomed to before replying after someone else had spoken. The children learned from their parents and grandparents without asking questions or showing off what they had learned, and I tried to adapt my teaching style to fit those ways of learning. I found that my basic philosophy of teaching fit well in Telida—with great respect for the individuality of each child, I created an environment where learning could happen. Sometimes that was on camping trips, where we fished and hunted and learned the stories of the places we pitched our tents; sometimes it was in the classroom where we explored mathematical patterns, wrote stories, and read great books together.

Some of the books I read with the Telida children: The Carrot Seed, The Yearling, Abel's Island, The Secret Garden, Charlotte's Web. (Joey, ten years old, gasped at the realization that "That spider's going to have babies, and then those babies will have babies, and then those babies will have babies—that pig will ALWAYS have a friend!") I learned to be sensitive to racism in children's books. I saw how easily children recognized when a book was written by someone who did not know or care that they existed, or who perpetuated insulting stereotypes about them.

One couple in Telida lived seventeen miles upriver; one weekend I set off on cross-country skis with their daughter Agnes, and we skied all the way to their house. Although the town of Old Fork in Diamond Willow is a fictional town, that trip helped me imagine Willow's dog-mushing trip to her grandparents' house and the welcome she received when she arrived.

Although I was very happy in Telida, some of my friends were concerned that I would never meet a husband there. But my closest friend, Gretchen, who had known me since we were roommates at Syracuse, reassured me with the wise words, "When you move closer to something you love, everything you love comes closer to you." I loved teaching, I loved Alaska, I loved the children whose school days were entrusted to me, and sure enough, at the beginning of my second year in Telida, I met someone else I would come to love.

There were nine schools in the Iditarod Area School District, which covered an area about the size of the state of Ohio. On the same weekend that I went into McGrath for a meeting of the nine principal-teachers, Chad Thompson, a linguist, came from Fairbanks to McGrath to lead a workshop for Athabascan language teachers. A friend invited me to stay at her house, apologizing for the fact that another person, this linguist, was also staying there. She later told us that she hadn't been sure we would like each other.

As it turned out, we did—very much. As we walked into town that first morning, several people stopped to offer us a ride—"No, we're enjoying the walk," we both said, as if we were strolling along a palm-lined island beach somewhere, rather than a gravel road in McGrath on a late-October morning, twenty-below-plus windchill.

We exchanged a few letters, and after we met again at the annual Bilingual Education conference in Anchorage in February, I started looking forward to Friday evenings, when The Dukes of Hazzard came on TV and everyone in Telida gathered at the school to watch it on the one television in town. That meant that the one telephone was free, and for that half hour, private.

When Chad came to visit me in May, we decided to get married—it says something about him that he wanted to marry me even after a canoe trip which ended with me accidentally tipping him into the frigid Kuskokwim River (chunks of ice were still floating on it). He won the hearts of my Telida family that weekend, and when he met my parents a few months later, they were as convinced as everyone else that this was a good match. I had signed a contract for a third year of teaching in Telida, and I honored that, but we got married that summer anyway, with Chad's five-year-old son, Lloyd, as our ring-bearer.

The following spring, as soon as school was out, I flew into Fairbanks to join Chad in his—now "our"—apartment. Lloyd joined us a few weeks later, and the following January, Glen was born. It was a very sudden change, from being single in a small cabin in Telida, to having a husband and two children in Fairbanks. I was ready for the new pleasures and responsibilities of family life, and I had a wonderful new family.

We bought a house on the edge of town, and split a big pile of wood for the woodstove. We often saw moose tracks in our driveway. One day when I was holding Glen and watching Lloyd practice his soccer moves, I looked up and saw a moose run behind the house, through the woodpile, and on down the dog-mushing

trail behind our house. A few minutes earlier, Lloyd had been playing right in the place the moose ran through.

The first few years of my life with young children allowed me a more flexible schedule than I'd had while I was teaching. I could usually carve out an hour or two each day for my writing while Glen was napping and Lloyd was in school. This was when I wrote most of the poems that became the book Skin of a Fish, Bones of a Bird. Once again, I met other writers in Fairbanks who encouraged me to keep writing and to begin sending things out for publication.

I rejected the standard advice to start out by sending poems to places that were "easy to get into" and instead, on the premise that "if I like what you publish, maybe you'll like what I write." I sent my work to the journals and literary magazines I most admired. Of course some of these poems came flying back to me, but a number of them were accepted, and soon I started thinking about putting together a book manuscript. It took about eight years from the time I started sending poems out until Skin of a Fish, Bones of a Bird won a contest and was accepted, in a magical phone call from editor Martha Christina, for publication by Ampersand Press.

During those eight years, we moved four times: In 1986 we moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Chad got his Ph.D. in linguistics. While we lived in Eugene, my father died, after a thirteen-month illness. Glen was four that year, and I took him with me on a Greyhound bus to go to the funeral. After some conversation and time to mull things over, Glen declared, "Now Grandpa can see the dinosaurs."

A few months after my father died, we moved to Arcata, California, where Chad worked on a dictionary of the Hupa language. We were invited to attend the sacred White Deerskin Dance, and several other very moving ceremonies and celebrations.

When the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened, I grieved for the people and animals of Prince William Sound, imagining such a catastrophe happening to my friends in Telida—the water, land and animals poisoned; the life of the community disrupted by media attention and disconnected money. I spent most of that year gathering writers' responses to the oil spill and editing the anthology Season of Dead Water, which was published by Breitenbush, a small press in Oregon.

In 1990, we moved back to Alaska, to Ketchikan, where I taught at White Cliff Elementary School. Glen was in kindergarten by then, at the same school where I taught fifth grade. My memories of that class were a source of warmth and love when I created the classroom in Spinning through the Universe.

Ketchikan is a beautiful place, and we could happily have settled there for a lifetime—bald eagles soaring over the fjords and islands, majestic totems, good people. But teaching full time left me no time for writing, and it was difficult for Chad to find work as a linguist. When he was offered a university teaching job in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we got out our atlas one more time, and planned our trip across western Canada, down through North Dakota, and across the Midwest to our new home.

7. Fort Wayne, Indiana—1991-Present

When we came to Fort Wayne, Glen was in first grade and Lloyd was starting high school. I had written several stories for children, but hadn't found a publisher for them. In the sixteen years we have lived here, the children have grown up (Lloyd is married now, and has brought two delightful children into our family); Chad has taught linguistics to thousands of college students; and I have gradually become a full-time writer, writing mostly for children and young adults.

The first few years we lived in Fort Wayne, I found a number of ways to combine teaching and writing: I taught composition at several colleges, taught poetry in schools throughout the state, and kept up with my own writing. For a few years, I wrote nonfiction books, mostly for early readers, on topics assigned to me by editors of educational publishing houses. I had experience in teaching reading, in writing for children, and in research, and the assignments drew on all those skills. I learned a lot about topics I might not otherwise have explored.

In my creative writing, I wrote for both children and adults, but for a long time—I'm not sure why—I wrote poetry for adults and prose for children. It wasn't until I started working on Keesha's House and Spinning through the Universe that my stories for young people began to find their form in poetry.

I began work on those two books simultaneously. In a notebook divided into sections for "adults," "children," and "young adults," it's interesting to see how several different books got their starts. Some ideas migrated from one section to another, notably a poem in the adult section which eventually became the picture book Monarch and Milkweed.

The poems that became Keesha's House were deeply influenced by my work with young people in Fort Wayne, particularly by two projects which began as a community response to high rates of youth violence. In 1995, I began working with Lisa Tsetse of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective, as part of a program designed to bring artists together with young people who might be at risk for involvement in violence. Lisa and I, along with several other artists, went into juvenile detention centers, group homes, schools, and other places where we found young people who had often been hurt, and who had sometimes hurt others. Working with art, respect, and honesty, we came to know many complex and interesting young people. Each year, I typed and edited an anthology of their poems, and the poems were included as part of a public performance, along with dancing and masks and giant puppets and drumming and singing. Our work was often painful, but it was deeply transforming for us, and, we hoped and witnessed, for the young people.

In 1998, I worked with the Fort Wayne YWCA and the Fort Wayne Youtheatre to write and produce a play based on young people's experience of violence in our community. I was invited to six high schools—urban, rural, and suburban—where I helped 240 students write stories, poems, and scripts; then I worked with Harvey Cocks to craft the stories into a play, Why Darkness Seems So Light. The play was published by Pioneer Drama, and has been produced in many communities. Pecan Grove Press published a selection of the students' stories in an anthology of the same title.

Teachers often asked me what I did to help students feel safe enough to write about such sensitive issues, and, realizing how much I had to say about that, I wrote a book for teachers, When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, which was published by Heinemann in September, 2001.

I continued working on Keesha's House, partly as a way of creating a refuge for teens who did not feel safe in their homes, or loved by their community. I wanted to say, "I see you. I respect you. You're important." I was receiving difficult stories from so many young people, and I often saw them for a few weeks and then never knew what happened to them. Writing Keesha's House was one way I could imagine them in safety, and using the formal structures of poetry helped me express the emotional depth of the characters' voices.

When I held the finished manuscript in my hands, I felt like I do when one of my children amazes me by doing something gracious or intelligent. It had something to do with me, but it also felt like it had a life of its own. I thought carefully about how to find the right publisher. I loved many books published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux—adult poetry books as well as books for young readers—and I called a friend, Doreen Rappaport, who lives in New York City and knows a lot about children's publishing. We had met at a writers retreat about ten years earlier, and she had been helpful to me on many occasions. I told her that I had completed a book written in sestinas and sonnets, and wanted to send it to FSG. I asked which editor she felt would be most receptive to such a book.

"Frances Foster," she said, "she's a wonderful editor and is open to all sorts of writing." I looked up Frances's other books, and realized that she was publishing many authors I loved. Then I spent four hours composing a cover letter in which I tried to convince her that she might love my book too. Three months later, in October, 2000, she called to say that she did. "Riveting," I wrote in quotes on the notepad I kept by the phone, and "a modest advance."

People often ask me "How do you get a book published?" The only answer I can give from my own experience is, "Work hard for thirty years and then get lucky." I knew the day I received that phone call that I was very lucky, and I am still learning how lucky I am. Frances continues to work with me on each new book—first she encouraged me to finish Spinning through the Universe, and then she enthusiastically approved what might have seemed like a dramatic change of course when I proposed the work of historical fiction that would become The Braid.

Sometimes one bit of luck, especially hard-earned good luck, draws other good fortune in its wake. Keesha's House, skillfully edited and beautifully designed, held the attention of the Printz committee, which honored it in 2004. At the American Library Association meeting in Orlando that year, Frances introduced me to many people in the world of children's books, and we had an entire afternoon to discuss what I thought was an almost-finished manuscript of The Braid. When she gently remarked, "I think you are close to finding your voice and your form," I realized it was not as near-finished as I'd hoped. I went home and worked with my idea of braiding the poems together until I was convinced it could work as I imagined it might. Frances was also convinced, enough to offer me a contract before the book was finished, the first time I had had that luxury.

And then I really got down to work. (Along with the contract, came a deadline!) I'd never worked so intensely on anything—after a morning's work, I was always ravenously hungry! It was exhilarating to discover the seemingly infinite flexibility and power of language. I was, in some ways, outside the story, almost like a slow and careful reader, and at the same time, right at the center as the story revealed itself to me. Sometimes Chad would come home and find me in some other place—Mingulay or Cape Breton, he might have wondered—and he'd ask "What happened to Jeannie today?" But it wasn't so much what had happened to my characters as it was the experience of going so deeply into poetry that dazzled me.

We had taken two family vacations to Nova Scotia, and I had explored Cape Breton with my story in mind, but I needed to spend more time on Barra and Mingulay. I applied for a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, which I received, allowing me to go to Scotland in September, 2004. My memories from the summer I spent there twenty-seven years earlier were quite clear, and I met people who helped me go deeper into my research, so that when I returned home, the final stretch of writing went quickly and smoothly.

Again, when the book came out, in fall, 2006, it was well received by readers, both teen and adult, by reviewers, and by award committees. Equally important to me, my friends and family and people I met on my trip to Barra wrote to tell me they loved the book.

Many of my nieces and nephews are adults now, some with children of their own, so there is a whole new generation of readers coming along. At my mother's ninetieth birthday party, with thirty-one of us in attendance (about half of our family now), I watched two-year-old Naima and three-year-old Christine sit down at a little table and "pretend write" as I once did on that shiny paper in Brookings, more than fifty years ago—perhaps there is a new generation of writers coming along, too.

I had two books published in 2008: Diamond Willow, a contemporary story set in interior Alaska, is related to The Braid in a way that I will leave for perceptive readers to discern. And Monarch and Milkweed may be an entomologist's way of telling the story of my life: a story of being held close, then opening up and riding away on the wind, finding the nourishment you need to make your way home—not "back home" but always "forward home."

When I celebrated my fifty-eighth birthday, I thought: it took me the first fifty years of my life to gather the skills and experiences I need to do what I most love, and now I'm doing it. I'm like an eight year old with a new bike—or maybe an eighteen year old on roller skates—looking out at all the adventure opening out in front of me.

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"Frost, Helen 1949- (Helen Marie Frost)." Something About the Author. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Frost, Helen 1949-

Frost, Helen 1949-

Personal

Born 1949, in Brookings, SD; married Chad Thompson, 1983; children: Lloyd (stepson), Glen. Education: Syracuse University, B.A. (elementary education); Indiana University, M.A. (English), 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, cross-country skiing, raising and releasing monarch butterflies, genealogy.

Addresses

Home—Fort Wayne, IN. E-mail—info@helenfrost.net.

Career

Educator and author. Kilquhanity House School (boarding school), Scotland, teacher, 1976-78; elementary school teacher/principal in Telida, AK, 1981-84, then Ketchikan, AK; Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, instructor. Fort Wayne Dance Collective, member of interdisciplinary artistic team, 1995-2006.

Awards, Honors

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 1992; Mary Carolyn Davies Award, Poetry Society of America, 1993; Women Poets Series Competition winner, Ampersand Press, 1993; Michael Printz Honor Book designation, American Library Association, 2004, for Keesha's House; Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor designation, 2007, for The Braid; several other awards and honors.

Writings

JUVENILE FICTION; NOVELS IN POEMS

Keesha's House (young-adult novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2003.

Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 (middle-grade novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.

The Braid (young-adult novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY) 2006.

Diamond Willow (middle-grade novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2008.

JUVENILE NONFICTION

Monarch and Milkweed, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2008.

"BIRDS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Bird Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Nests, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Baby Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Families, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"BUTTERFLIES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Butterfly Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Caterpillars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Butterfly Colors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Monarch Butterflies, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"DENTAL HEALTH" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Going to the Dentist, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Food for Healthy Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Brushing Well, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

"FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Fruit Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Eating Right, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Vegetable Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Dairy Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Fats, Oils, and Sweets, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Drinking Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Grain Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Meat and Protein Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"WATER" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Keeping Water Clean, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Water Cycle, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Solid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Liquid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Gas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

We Need Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Author's titles have been translated into Spanish.

"NATIONAL HOLIDAYS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Memorial Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Independence Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Presidents' Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"SENSES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Senses, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Smelling, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Touching, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Tasting, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Seeing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Hearing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"EMOTIONS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Feeling Sad, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Angry, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Scared, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Happy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"HUMAN BODY SYSTEMS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Circulatory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Respiratory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Nervous System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Muscular System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Skeletal System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Digestive System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"LOOKING AT SIMPLE MACHINES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

What Are Inclined Planes?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Levers?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Screws?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wedges?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wheels and Axles?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Pulleys?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"ALL ABOUT PETS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Cats, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Fish, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Hamsters, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Dogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Rabbits, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"INSECTS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Praying Mantises, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Walkingsticks, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Water Bugs, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Moths, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Wasps, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Cicadas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

"OUR WORLD" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

A Look at China, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at France, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Kenya, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Russia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Japan, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Canada, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Australia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Mexico, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Egypt, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Cuba, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Germany, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Vietnam, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"RAIN FOREST ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Jaguars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Boa Constrictors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Gorillas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tree Frogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tarantulas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Parrots, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Lemurs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Chimpanzees, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Leaf-cutting Ants, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Tigers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"COMING TO AMERICA" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

German Immigrants, 1820-1920, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Russian Immigrants, 1860-1949, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"FAMOUS AMERICANS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

John F. Kennedy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Sojourner Truth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Betsy Ross, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Thurgood Marshall, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

"LET'S MEET" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Let's Meet Jackie Robinson, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meet Booker T. Washington, Chelsea Clubhouse (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meet Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

"WEATHER" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Ice, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Fog, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Snow, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Wind, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

"DINOSAURS AND PREHISTORIC ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Woolly Mammoth, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Triceratops, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Sabertooth Cat, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Allosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Stegosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Books in series have been translated into Spanish.

"HELPERS IN OUR COMMUNITY" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

We Need Auto Mechanics, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Plumbers, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need School Bus Drivers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Pharmacists, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.

"POLAR ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Snowy Owls, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Puffins, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Caribou, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

Arctic Hares, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2007.

FOR ADULTS

(Editor) Season of Dead Water (poetry and prose anthology), Breitenbush Books (Portland, OR), 1990.

Skin of a Fish, Bones of a Bird: Poems, Ampersand Press (Bristol, RI), 1993.

(Editor) Why Darkness Seems So Light: Young People Speak out about Violence (also see below), Pecan Grove Press, 1998.

(With Harvey Cocks) Why Darkness Seems So Light (play; based on Frost's book of the same title), Pioneer Drama, 1999.

When I Whistle, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 2001.

Sidelights

In addition to her work as a teacher—she has taught students in Scotland, Vermont, and Alaska, as well as Indiana and, as a poet-in-residence, throughout the United States—poet, and playwright, Helen Frost is a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Frost's fictional works include the Michael J. Prinz young-adult honor book title Keesha's House as well as middle-grade novels such as Diamond Willow and the historical novel The Braid. Drawing on her experiences as a classroom teacher, Frost's numerous nonfiction contributions to informative series for elementary-grade students reflect her varied interests in science and history. In addition to writing for young people, Frost is also the author of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, a book which Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy contributor M.P. Cavanaugh explained is designed to "prepare teachers to work with students on sensitive issues and to provide nonviolent solutions to some of their problems."

Keesha's House, a novel-in-poems for older readers, focuses on seven inner-city teens whose lives are in turmoil until they find refuge in a home owned by a caring adult named Joe. Dubbed "Keesha's House" in honor of the first person to be welcomed there, Joe's home becomes a haven for pregnant teen Stephie; Katie, who is escaping her stepfather's sexual molestation; gay teen Harris, whose parents do not accept his sexual orientation; unhappy foster child Dontay; Carmen, who is battling an addiction to alcohol; high-school basketball star Jason, who struggles between college and his responsi-

bility as the father of Stephie's baby; and Keesha herself, whose father becomes violent with his children after their mother dies. Praised as a "moving" work containing "dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate" by Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, Keesha's House features sonnet and sestina verse forms that reflect contemporary speech, making the book easy going for those unfamiliar with poetry. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer found the work "thoughtfully composed and ultimately touching," while Michele Winship wrote in Kliatt that the poems in Keesha's House "weave together stories that depict the harsh reality of teenage life."

A book that "brings to life the voices and spirit of a fifth-grade classroom," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 contains verses that reflect the dreams, worries, enthusiasms, and day-to-day lives of Mrs. Williams's fifth-grade class. Each of the twenty-six students composes a poem in a different poetic form, waxing poetic on subjects ranging from a lost bicycle to the death of a parent. Characterized by the Publishers Weekly critic as "brief, deceptively casual poetic monologues," these poems are followed by a concluding

chapter about reading and writing poetry. Poetic forms described by Frost include haiku, blank verse, sonnets, sestinas, rondelets, and other less-familiar forms. In fact, an entire section devoted to acrostics prompted School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock to note that "readers will enjoy decoding them to reveal an additional thought about each character." Bock dubbed Spinning through the Universe a "boon for poetry classes," while in Kirkus Reviews a critic wrote that Frost's use of "original imagery and understated, natural voices make these poems sensitive and insightful."

Frost moves from the present to the past in The Braid, transporting readers across the Atlantic to Scotland and back through time to the mid-nineteenth century. In Frost's evocative narrative poems, teenaged sisters Jeannie and Sarah speak of life on the remote island of Barra, in the Scottish Hebrides. When their family is forced from the lands they have occupied for years as part of the landholder's efforts to free up grazing pasture for sheep, Jeannie accompanies her parents on the arduous sea voyage to eastern Canada. Unwilling to leave her homeland, Sarah hides so that she can remain in Scotland and care for her elderly grandmother. The historic backdrop of the novel—the Highland Clearances—are not familiar to many North American readers, explained Janis Flint-Ferguson in her Kliatt review, and Frost's novel "gives voice to the tragic circumstances that populated Nova Scotia, Canada." In twin strands of poetry, the two sisters relate their sadness over the miles that separate them and describe the harsh and often tragic circumstances they encounter as a result of their choice. In these tales Frost interweaves "themes of home, shelter, and heritage, as well as the yearning for family wherever one lives," according to Rochman. Paralleling the action in her tale, Frost employs a braidlike structure to her narrative: as the sisters alternate their stories, the last word of each line in one sister's poem becomes the first word in each line of the other sister's poem. Despite being so highly crafted, Frost's text reads with "such delicacy that few readers will note [the novel's] formal structure," asserted HornBook reviewer Joanna Rudge Long, the critic adding that The Braid is "compellingly poignant" and its teen characters "courageous and well realized."

While Frost has become well known for her novels-in-poems for older readers, she has also written numerous series of early-reader nonfiction: short books presenting basic facts and information in a minimal text well-illustrated with photographs, maps, diagrams, and other artwork. With approximately twenty sentences per book, volumes such as A Look at France in the "Our World" series, and What Are Levers? in the "Looking at Simple Machines" series, were written to appeal to beginning scholars and use a simple vocabulary to convey rudimentary information. More detail is provided in Frost's contributions to the "Coming to America" series, designed for older readers. Praising the author's research in German Immigrants, 1820-1920 as "solid," Booklist reviewer Rochman added that the book serves young readers of German and Russian ancestry as "a good place to start researching family history."

With her varied experiences as a teacher of at-risk students, Frost encourages teachers and librarians to recognize the value of both reading and writing poetry to young adults. "I bet half the teenagers I know have notebooks …," she explained to School Library Journal contributor Rick Margolis. "When I meet a group of ten kids, I can almost guarantee that one of them is going to say, ‘I'm a poet,’ and bring in reams of poems the next week. And if I ask, ‘How many of you like to write poetry?’ at least half of them will say they do."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of German Immigrants, 1820-1920, p. 406; March 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Keesha's House, p. 1192; April 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, p. 1363; June 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of The Braid, p. 74.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Braid, p. 170.

Horn Book, November-December, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Braid, p. 709.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2002, M.P. Cavanaugh, review of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Difficult Issues, p. 275.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 221; October 1, 2006, review of The Braid, p. 1014.

Kliatt, March, 2003, Michele Winship, review of Keesha's House, p. 10; November, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of The Braid, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Season of Dead Water, p. 54; April 21, 2003, review of Keesha's House, p. 63; April 5, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 63; October 16, 2006, review of The Braid, p. 55.

School Library Journal, August, 2000, Pamela K. Bombay, review of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, p. 169; October, 2000, Carolyn Jenks, review of Drinking Water, p. 147; January, 2001, Judith Constantinides, review of Feeling Angry, p. 117; April, 2001, Dona J. Helmer, review of The Circulatory System, p. 130; August, 2001, Blair Christolon, review of What Are Levers?, p. 168; September, 2001, Karey Wehner, review of Moths, p. 214; December, 2001, Elizabeth Talbot, review of A Look at Russia, p. 121; June, 2002, Ann W. Moore, review of A Look at France, p. 120; October, 2002, Linda Ludke, review of A Look at Canada, p. 144; October, 2003, Jennifer Ralston, review of Keesha's House, p. 99; November, 2003, Michele Shaw, review of Betsy Ross, p. 125; April, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 154; April, 2004, review of Keesha's House, p. 64; October, 2006, Rick Margolis, "A Gentle Frost" (interview), p. 38, and Jill Heritage Maza, review of The Braid, p. 154.

ONLINE

Helen Frost Home Page,http://www.helenfrost.net (October 17, 2007).

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"Frost, Helen 1949-." Something About the Author. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Frost, Helen 1949-." Something About the Author. 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3070900028.html

Frost, Helen 1949-

FROST, Helen 1949-

Personal

Born 1949, in Brookings, SD; married Chad Thopson; children: Lloyd, Glen. Education: Syracuse University, B.A. (elementary education); Indiana University, M.A. (English), 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, cross-country skiing, raising and releasing monarch butterflies, geneaology.

Addresses

Home Fort Wayne, IN. Agent Capstone Press, 151 Good Counsel Dr., P.O. Box 669, Mankato, MN 56002. E-mail helenfrost@comcast.net.

Career

Educator and author. Kilquhanity House School (boarding school), Scotland, teacher; elementary school teacher/principal in Telida, AK, for three years, then Ketchican, AK; Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, instructor. Fort Wayne Dance Collective, member of inderdisciplinary artistic team, beginning 1994.

Awards, Honors

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 1992; Mary Carolyn Davies Award, Poetry Society of America, 1993; Women Poets Series Competition winner, Ampersand Press, 1993; Michael Printz Honor Book designation, American Library Association, 2004, for Keesha's House; several other awards and honors.


Writings

JUVENILE FICTION

Keesha's House, Frances Foster Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, Frances Foster Books (New York, NY), 2004.


"BIRDS" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

Bird Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Nests, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Baby Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Bird Families, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.


"BUTTERFLIES" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

Butterfly Eggs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Caterpillars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Butterfly Colors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Monarch Butterflies, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.


"DENTAL HEALTH" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Going to the Dentist, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Food for Healthy Teeth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.

Brushing Well, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 1999.


"FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Fruit Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Eating Right, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Vegetable Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Dairy Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Fats, Oils, and Sweets, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Drinking Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Grain Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Meat and Protein Group, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.


"WATER" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

Keeping Water Clean, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Water Cycle, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Solid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Liquid, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Water as a Gas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

We Need Water, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.


Author's titles have been translated into Spanish.


"NATIONAL HOLIDAYS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Memorial Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Independence Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Presidents' Day, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

"SENSES" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Your Senses, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Smelling, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Touching, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Tasting, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Seeing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.

Hearing, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2000.


"EMOTIONS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Feeling Sad, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Angry, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Scared, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Feeling Happy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.


"HUMAN BODY SYSTEMS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

The Circulatory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Respiratory System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Nervous System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Muscular System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Skeletal System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

The Digestive System, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.


"LOOKING AT SIMPLE MACHINES" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

What Are Inclined Planes?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Levers?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Screws?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wedges?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Wheels and Axles?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

What Are Pulleys?, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.


"OUR WORLD" SERIES: JUVENILE NONFICTION

A Look at China, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at France, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Kenya, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Russia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Japan, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Canada, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Australia, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Mexico, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

A Look at Egypt, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Cuba, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Germany, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

A Look at Vietnam, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.


"ALL ABOUT PETS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Cats, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Fish, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Hamsters, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Dogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Rabbits, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Birds, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.


"INSECTS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Praying Mantises, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Walkingsticks, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Water Bugs, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Moths, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Wasps, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Cicadas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2001.


"RAIN FOREST ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Jaguars, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Boa Constrictors, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Gorillas, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tree Frogs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Tarantulas, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Parrots, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Lemurs, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Chimpanzees, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Leaf-cutting Ants, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Tigers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.


"COMING TO AMERICA" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

German Immigrants, 1820-1920, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Russian Immigrants, 1860-1949, Blue Earth Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.


"FAMOUS AMERICANS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

John F. Kennedy, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Sojourner Truth, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Betsy Ross, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Thurgood Marshall, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.


"LET'S MEET" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Let's Meet Jackie Robinson, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meet Booker T. Washington, Chelsea Clubhouse (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Let's Meed Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Chelsea Clubhouse Books (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.


"WEATHER" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Ice, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Fog, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Snow, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Wind, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.


"DINOSAURS AND PREHISTORIC ANIMALS" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

Woolly Mammoth, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Triceratops, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Sabertooth Cat, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Allosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

Stegosaurus, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.


"HELPERS IN OUR COMMUNITY" SERIES; JUVENILE NONFICTION

We Need Auto Mechanics, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Plumbers, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need School Bus Drivers, Pebble Books (Mankato, MN), 2004.

We Need Pharmacists, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.


FOR ADULTS

(Editor) Season of Dead Water (poetry and prose anthology), Breitenbush Books (Portland, OR), 1990.

Skin of a Fish, Bones of a Bird: Poems, Ampersand Press (Bristol, RI), 1993.

(Editor) Why Darkness Seems So Light: Young People Speak out about Violence (also see below), Pecan Grove Press, 1998.

(With Harvey Cocks) Why Darkness Seems So Light (play; based on the book of the same title), Pioneer Drama, 1999.

When I Whistle, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Diffıcult Issues, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 2001.


Work in Progress

Monarch and Milkweed, for Atheneum, and the novel The Braid, for Frances Foster Books, 2006.


Sidelights

In addition to her work as a teachershe has taught students in Scotland, Alaska, and the American Midwestpoet, and playwright, Helen Frost is a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Frost's fictional works include the award-winning young-adult novel Keesha's House and the novel Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, while nonfiction contributions to informative series for elementary-grade students reflect her interest in science and biology. In addition to her work for young people, Frost is also the author of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Diffıcult Issues, a book which, according to Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy contributor M. P. Cavanaugh, is designed to "prepare teachers to work with students on sensitive issues and to provide nonviolent solutions to some of their problems."A novel-inverse for older readers, Keesha's House focuses on seven inner-city teens whose lives are currently in turmoil and who find refuge in a home owned by a caring adult named Joe. Dubbed "Keesha's House" in honor of the first person to be welcomed there, the home becomes a haven for pregnant teen Stephie; Katie, who is escaping her stepfather's sexual molestation; gay teen Harris, whose parents do not accept his sexual orientation; unhappy foster child Dontay; Carmen, who is battling an addiction to drugs; high school basketball star Jason, who struggles between college and his responsibility as the father of Stephie's baby; and Keesha herself. Praised as a "moving" work containing "dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate," by Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, Keesha's House features sonnet and sestina verse forms that reflect contemporary speech, making the book easy going for those unfamiliar with poetry. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer found the work "thoughtfully composed and ultimately touching," while Michele Winship wrote in Kliatt that the poems in Keesha's House "weave together stories that depict the harsh reality of teenage life."

A book that "brings to life the voices and spirit of a fifth-grade classroom," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Spinning through the Universe contains poems that reflect the dreams, worries, enthusiasms, and day-to-day lives of Mrs. Williams's twenty-six fifth graders, each of whom composes a poem in a different poetic form. The fictional preteen writers wax poetic about subjects ranging from a lost bicycle to the death of a parent, in what the Publishers Weekly critic described as "brief, deceptively casual poetic monologues" that Frost follows with a concluding chapter about reading and writing verse. Forms include haiku, blank verse, sonnets, sestinas, rondelets, and other less-familiar schemes; an entire section devoted to acrostics prompted School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock to note that "readers will enjoy decoding them to reveal an additional thought about each character." Bock dubbed Spinning through the Universe a "boon for poetry classes," while in Kirkus Reviews a critic wrote that Frost's use of "original imagery and understated, natural voices make these poems sensitive and insightful." Many of Frost's series nonfiction are short books presenting basic facts and information in a minimal text well-illustrated with photographs, maps, diagrams, and other artwork. With approximately twenty sentences per book, volumes such as A Look at France in the "Our World" series and What Are Levers? in the "Looking at Simple Machines" series are designed for beginning scholars, and incorporate large print and a simple vocabulary to convey rudimentary information. More detail is provided in Frost's contributions to the "Coming to America" series, designed for older readers. Praising Frost's research in German Immigrants, 1820-1920 as "solid," Booklist reviewer Rochman added that the book serves young readers of German and Scandinavian descent as "a good place to start researching family history."


Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of German Immigrants, 1820-1920, p. 406; March 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Keesha's House, p. 1192; April 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, p. 1363.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2002, M. P. Cavanaugh, review of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Diffıcult Issues, p. 275.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 221.

Kliatt, March, 2003, Michele Winship, review of Keesha's House, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Season of Dead Water, p. 54; April 21, 2003, review of Keesha's House, p. 63; April 5, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 63.

School Library Journal, August, 2000, Pamela K. Bombay, review of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, p. 169; October, 2000, Carolyn Jenks, review of Drinking Water, p. 147; January, 2001, Judith Constantinides, review of Feeling Angry, p. 117; April, 2001, Dona J. Helmer, review of The Circulatory System, p. 130; August, 2001, Blair Christolon, review of What Are Levers?, p. 168; September, 2001, Karey Wehner, review of Moths, p. 214; December, 2001, Elizabeth Talbot, review of A Look at Russia, p. 121; June, 2002, Ann W. Moore, review of A Look at France, p. 120; October, 2002, Linda Ludke, review of A Look at Canada, p. 144; October, 2003, Jennifer Ralston, review of Keesha's House, p. 99; November, 2003, Michele Shaw, review of Betsy Ross, p. 125; April, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 154; April, 2004, review of Keesha's House, p. 64.


ONLINE

Helen Frost Web site, http://helenfrost.com (December 30, 2004).

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