Salt by Helen Frost.
Page Count: 160.
Published: July 23, 2013.
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anikwa and James, twelve years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping, and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James’s family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are rising—the British and American armies prepare to meet at Fort Wayne for a crucial battle, and Native Americans from surrounding tribes gather in Kekionga to protect their homeland. After trading stops and precious commodities, like salt, are withheld, the fort comes under siege, and war ravages the land. James and Anikwa, like everyone around them, must decide where their deepest loyalties lie. Can their families—and their friendship—survive?
In Salt, Printz Honor author Helen Frost offers a compelling look at a difficult time in history.
Salt is a wartime novel written in dual perspective featuring two young boys who end up on opposite sides of the battle lines. It explores the War of 1812 through their narratives and through their friendship, which is a great way to get young readers to connect with the history.
This novel was excellent for a few different things. First off, I was very impressed by how it explores the innocence of children and how it changes in the face of prejudice. While I do think it will take a young reader with a bit of a higher comprehension level than average to really appreciate the novel, I definitely think there is plenty to enjoy. I thought it was wonderful the way it examines the tense relationships that develop during the war in a way that a young reader can grow to understand along with the two narrators. This way they can feel like they're growing with the characters rather than having history pushed on them. I also really enjoyed the way the narratives were set up visually. As the author explains, the visual aspect of Anikwa's narrative is meant to represent the Miami tribe's traditional weaving patterns, while James' is meant to be presented like the stripes on the American flag. I think it adds an interesting visual dynamic to helping identify each individual narrator and their place in the story.
The drawback for me in this one is that I felt it really only skimmed the surface of a lot of what was going on. I suppose I should have expected it from a book clocking in at only 160 pages, but I still wanted more depth and history. I understand that these young boys would have been sheltered and therefore, because the story was told from their perspectives, we would not be exposed to everything, but I almost felt like they were more sheltered than they would have been and so it was all more brushed over than I hoped it would be. I felt the tension in the situation but if I weren't someone who studies history I probably wouldn't have understood why it was present or its true implications.
Overall, though, this was a well-crafted novel that showcases the profound differences that were present between cultures during the War of 1812 through the innocence and friendship of two young boys living on a battleground. I just wish there had been more in-depth exploration of the situation at hand.
A solid 3 stars.