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Frost, Helen 1949–

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—[email protected]

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, Alaska, and Indiana and, as a poet-in-residence, throughout the United StatesHelen 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 wrote 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 Poemsfrom 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).

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