Friday, January 27, 2017

Helen Frost's _Applesauce Weather_

The Plot: Helen Frost's Applesauce Weather (2016) is a slim verse novel illustrated by Amy June Bates that tells the story of siblings Faith and Peter and their Uncle Arthur. Every year, when the first apples begin to fall from the apple tree in their yard, Uncle Arthur comes to visit Faith and Peter to make applesauce and tell stories. But this year is a bit different, as Aunt Lucy has recently passed away and Uncle Arthur is still grieving. As the narrative unfolds, readers learn of Arthur and Lucy's love story, and Uncle Arthur weaves strange tales about how he lost one of his fingers. Frost's narrative is about ritual, relationships, and growing together through love and grief.

The Poetry: Every ten pages in the verse novel, a new section begins with a short poem. The first of these eight poems is called "The Apple Tree," and each subsequent poem is entitled "Lucy's Song" (17, 27, 37, 55, 69, 83, 91). These poems often include end rhyme, and they all refer to Lucy and Arthur's love story. "The Apple Tree" begins by describing place, "A house beside an orchard / at the edge of a small town / a bench beneath an apple tree" and continues as a prologue to the narrative: "this story tells what happened / between here and that first bend" (ii). Each of the additional poems in the collection are titled with the name of the character from whose perspective the reader hears the story ("Faith," "Peter," or "Arthur"). Frost tells an engaging narrative, utilizing both rhyme and the space on the page to focus the narrative.

The Page: Bates's pencil illustrations for the verse novel are striking and truly enrich the narrative. This shorter verse novel (103 pages) mirrors the length of poetry collections for adults and allows readers to focus on the poetic silence in the spaces left. While Frost uses rhyme and narrative elements to great effect, her verse novel would have benefited from additional use of poetic devices such as imagery. I give Applesauce Weather three stars.