Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War
By Helen Frost
Published 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Anikwa and James have always been friendly. Their families live near each other in the Indiana Territory. Though Anikwa is a member of the Miami tribe and James is the son of an American trader, the boys have lived peacefully, discovering nature together. That will all change as the War of 1812 comes to their land. Will their friendship survive?
So, Helen Frost is a pretty big deal in the world of novels in verse - many of her books are award winners. Despite this and despite my love of verse novels, I'd never read one of her books before. So, when I binged on novels in verse this fall, her latest seemed like a natural choice.
Maybe I am too much the perfect reader for this book - a lover of novels in verse AND historical fiction - but I really enjoyed it. I loved that Frost was able to make the voices of James and Anikwa very distinct, utilizing different poetic styles for each very effectively. I enjoyed reading about the boys and their families, though at times it was frustrating to see the misunderstandings they put each other through. Though I'm not sure how realistic the ending is, I thought it worked well for this story and provides a good takeaway for readers of this novel.
One thing I'm unsure about: I don't know if I believed the boys as 12-year-olds. Weren't children mostly viewed as miniature adults historically? If so, I felt like these boys seemed a bit too naïve. Additionally, I felt like they would have been more keenly aware of what was going on in the war around them than they are presented here. But perhaps I am wrong about this; it just seemed a bit off for me.
The back matter is very helpful here - an author's note and a glossary. I very much appreciated reading these. This is a great book for readers looking for a friendship story, or those looking for great historical fiction.