This book was recommended to me by my favorite librarian at the Centre County Library in Bellefonte. We tend to have the exact same taste in books–we love the same books and we dislike the same books. So, when she raved about Songs of Willow Frost, I knew I would enjoy it, and I did.
This book alternates between the story of William Eng, a 12-year-old Chinese-American boy who has been living in the Seattle Sacred Heart Orphanage for five years; and the story of his mother, Liu Song (Willow), whose skills as a singer and an actress helped her survive the trauma of losing her parents. William’s friendship with Charlotte, a young blind girl at the orphanage, was particularly moving, and their relationship seemed an integral part of what I enjoyed about this book.
I especially liked reading about Depression-era Seattle and the beginnings of the film industry. The details Ford uses to describe the people and the places bring them alive.
As I often do, I’d like to share some favorite quotes rather than offer plot spoilers:
- “The library is like a candy store where everything is free.”
- “Somehow life had become a story problem, and William was horrible at math.”
- “The city has been reborn during her short lifetime as streetlights and electricity transformed each block into a carnival of neon. Men walked the streets with purpose, with lacquered canes and polished shoes, and women crossed the streets in bobbed hair and sequined gowns that shone pink, lilac, and periwinkle beneath gas lamps and the sweeping headlights of shiny automobiles. The city had grown up around her; she was a mother, but she still felt like a lost little girl?”
- “She’d never felt more alone, even as hundreds of people walked by. No one recognized her, and she began to treasure her anonymity as a gift.”
So, if you’re in the mood for a heartfelt, heart-wrenching historical fiction piece, pick this one up–I know that now I want to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet also by Jamie Ford. I’d also just like to take this opportunity to appreciate all the librarians out there–so many librarians in my life have opened doors to new worlds, old truths, and everything possible. Thank you to all the librarians of the past, present and future!
Do you have a book review, a lesson, or a reflection about reading/teaching you’d like to share? Send Kate a message at kap17 @ scasd dot org