Songs of Willow Frost

Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost is a tender, deeply felt novel set in Seattle during the 1920s and the subsequent Great Depression. Twelve-year-old William Eng knows he has not always lived at Sacred Heart Orphanage, because he remembers a mother who loved him. Since the orphanage withholds information about the parents of its residents, though, William does not know why his mother gave him up. On their assigned communal birthday, the orphans take a field trip to the movies, and William can't believe his eyes when Willow Frost appears onscreen. He's certain the actress is his mother, Liu Song, whose name translates to "willow" in English.

When he learns Willow Frost will be performing in Seattle, William, aided by his blind best friend, Charlotte, plans to run away to her. Together, the children brave the sad and dangerous streets of Depression-era Seattle, but when William comes face-to-face with Willow, he learns her past--and his own--are far more complicated than a simple question of love.

Interwoven with William's story is that of his mother, Liu Song, a beautiful young girl whose mother's death leaves her at the mercy of a cruel stepfather and his coarse wife.

As in his debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Ford explores the effects of separation and the hope for reunion. He delineates a time of great poverty and sacrifice in the U.S., and he examines prejudice against women and minorities. Despite the harsh historical realities, Ford's fans will fall in love all over again, and new readers are sure to find much to enjoy. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

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