Helen Frost Biography (1949-)
In addition to her work as a teacher—she has taught students in Scotland, Alaska, and the American Midwest—poet, and playwright, Helen Frost is a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Frost's fictional works include the award-winning young-adult novel Keesha's House and the novel Spinning through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214, while nonfiction contributions to informative series for elementary-grade students reflect her interest in science and biology. In addition to her work for young people, Frost is also the author of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Diffıcult Issues, a book which, according to Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy contributor M. P. Cavanaugh, is designed to "prepare teachers to work with students on sensitive issues and to provide nonviolent solutions to some of their problems."A novel-inverse for older readers, Keesha's House focuses on seven inner-city teens whose lives are currently in turmoil and who 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, the 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 drugs; high school basketball star Jason, who struggles between college and his responsibility as the father of Stephie's baby; and Keesha herself. 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 contains poems that reflect the dreams, worries, enthusiasms, and day-to-day lives of Mrs. Williams's twenty-six fifth graders, each of whom composes a poem in a different poetic form. The fictional preteen writers wax poetic about subjects ranging from a lost bicycle to the death of a parent, in what the Publishers Weekly critic described as "brief, deceptively casual poetic monologues" that Frost follows with a concluding chapter about reading and writing verse. Forms include haiku, blank verse, sonnets, sestinas, rondelets, and other less-familiar schemes; 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." Many of Frost's series nonfiction are 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 are designed for beginning scholars, and incorporate large print and 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 Frost's research in German Immigrants, 1820-1920 as "solid," Booklist reviewer Rochman added that the book serves young readers of German and Scandinavian descent as "a good place to start researching family history."
Biographical and Critical Sources
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 Poems from Room 214, p. 1363.
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, November, 2002, M. P. Cavanaugh, review of When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write about Diffıcult Issues, p. 275.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Spinning through the Universe, p. 221.
Kliatt, March, 2003, Michele Winship, review of Keesha's House, 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.
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.
Helen Frost Web site, http://helenfrost.com (December 30, 2004).
Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyHelen Frost (1949-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights