I am always and forever a fan of middle grade historical fiction novels told using the free verse medium. When I came across Salt: A Story Of Friendship In A Time Of War by Helen Frost in the Macmillan Children’s Catalog, I knew I had to read and review it. Essentially, the length of time I spent reading Salt felt like the blink of an eye. It is a very quick, very engaging read with a setting and era that I have not come across all that often. Frost’s story takes place in Miami, Ohio during the War of 1812, which despite my best effort the only thing I can recall about that whole war is the 1812 Overture, which is not exactly relevant to this book at all.
James and Anikwa are best friends. Yet, they are very different. You see, James is a white boy who has settlers for parents. His dad runs the trading post. Anikwa is a member of the Miami tribe. They speak different languages, yet as they learn from each other this gap is bridged. The friendship is effortless until tension starts mounting between the Miami and the settlers, mainly because there’s about to be war between the American and the British, AGAIN. When war breaks out, it seems as though James and Anikwa can’t be friends anymore — as they are on opposite sides. Trading between the two groups comes to an end — which is important because salt is essential to have in order to preserve meat. The settlers continue to screw the Miami over. Eventually, Anikwa’s tribe leaves the area to gather in Kekionga in order to save their lands. When they come back, will James and Anikwa still be BFFs? Y’all, read the book and find out.
GUYS! I liked James. He was just so damned earnest and one of those rare children who is not a total jerk. Granted, he knew when the other settler kid who was a total ass, was being a jerk and didn’t exactly call him on it. Granted, 1812 is a much different time from now and that kid had much more powerful parents. Anyways, I just liked James and how much he tried to do the right thing. However, out of the two boys portrayed, I thought that Anikwa was the much more interesting. He’s sort of on the verge of what passed for manhood back them. Anikwa has to protect his family, find food for them to eat and work out what courage means to him. He’s curious. He is willing to be friendly with people different from him. Yet, at the same time, he isn’t going to let people walk all over him and his family. Of course, I liked Anikwa much more.
Salt: A Story Of Friendship In A Time Of War is told using verse. What’s really interesting is that Anikwa’s poems are told in a form that is supposed to represent ribbon art. I liked that artistic choice. I liked that Frost’s book was written in an accessible way and that she did talk a little bit about her inspirations and such. I can’t speak to how well researched or accurate it is. Nor can I speak to her portrayal of one Native American tribe during the War of 1812 and whether it is fair and accurate or not. I thought she seemed respectful and did not fetishize the Miami people, nor did she ‘other’ the tribe. Instead, she really just zeroes in on Anikwa and doesn’t really say THIS KID IS REPRESENTING the Miami during this period of time as a whole. But again, I am always super oblivious and could be wrong. I’ll be interested to see what someone who has more knowledge than I do thinks about Salt.
In all, I enjoyed reading Salt by Helen Frost and thought it was an interesting view of a time period that I basically know nothing about. I liked the format. I liked the characters. I also really liked the cover, if we want to talk about all the things I enjoyed. I’d recommend this for children from 8-12 years old, but obviously anyone interested should check this book out as well, I just think results will be best with that crowd.
Disclosure: Received for review
Other reviews of Salt: A Story Of Friendship by Helen Frost:
Read My Breath Away – “a well-crafted novel”