Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War
Helen Frost
Frances Foster Books (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Salt is a historical fiction verse novel–it’s written in poetic form, but it is remarkably easy to read. Set at the beginning of the War of 1812, Salt chronicles the friendship of two boys: James, a white settler’s son, and Anikwa, a Miami Native American’s son. The two families have been friends for generations, but the white family lives just outside the American fort. When tensions rise between the French and the Americans, and the Indians are forced to choose sides, the two boys are caught in the middle.

Frost enjoys writing poetry in distinctive forms. Diamond Willow was written in diamond-shaped poems with one word in each line typed in bold to form a different message. In Salt, Frost uses a two-pronged approach to reinforce the differences in the two boys and in their cultures. James speaks in unrhymed couplets that look like stripes across the page. They are, in fact, supposed to look like stripes: the stripes in the American flag. Anikwa speaks in poetry shaped liked the weaving patterns from his culture’s blankets.

The two boys struggle to understand each other in the midst of the turmoil surrounding their families. Misunderstandings are inevitable, and the two families must figure out how to continue to be friends–or if it’s worth continuing to trust one another. The characters are nuanced, the many issues surrounding war time are present without taking over the boy’s friendship, and the ending is perfect. If you’ve never read a novel-in-verse, this is a good one to try!

Frost includes good end notes on the history of the time period in question as well as cultural notes for Anikwa’s people and how she came up with her characters’ names. 

Recommended for middle grades and up.

Book from my local library; cover image from publisher’s website