The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House

4.0 13
by Louise Erdrich, Louise Erdich

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"[In this] story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children's stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at 'them' as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family's history, wants to tell about 'us', from the… See more details below

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"[In this] story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children's stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at 'them' as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family's history, wants to tell about 'us', from the inside. The Birchbark House establishes its own ground, in the vicinity of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books." --The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
PW said, "Like its sequel, The Birchbark House, this meticulously researched novel offers an even balance of joyful and sorrowful moments while conveying a perspective of America's past that is rarely found in history books." Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Erdrich's (Grandmother's Pigeon) debut novel for children is the first in a projected cycle of books centering on an Ojibwa family on an island in Lake Superior. Opening in the summer of 1847, the story follows the family, in a third-person narrative, through four seasons; it focuses on young Omakayas, who turns "eight winters old" during the course of the novel. In fascinating, nearly step-by-step details, the author describes how they build a summer home out of birchbark, gather with extended family to harvest rice in the autumn, treat an attack of smallpox during the winter and make maple syrup in the spring to stock their own larder and to sell to others. Against the backdrop of Ojibwa cultural traditions, Omakayas also conveys the universal experiences of childhood--a love of the outdoors, a reluctance to do chores, devotion to a pet--as well as her ability to cope with the seemingly unbearable losses of the winter. The author hints at Omakayas's unusual background and her calling as a healer, as well as the imminent dangers of the "chimookoman" or white people, setting the stage for future episodes. Into her lyrical narrative, Erdrich weaves numerous Ojibwa words, effectively placing them in context to convey their meanings. Readers will want to follow this family for many seasons to come. Ages 9-up. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Omakayas, a young girl of seven winters, was impatient for her front teeth to grow, longed to be as perfect as her older sister Angeline, disliked her brother Little Pinch, but loved the baby Neewo. She did not look forward to the difficult task of tanning the moose hide, although she knew it had to be done. As we follow her through the year, we discover along with her how simple life was that spring. Lack of food during the winter, devastation by smallpox and the westward movement of the white folk were spelling impending doom to their lifestyle. Finally she would hear a fantastic story of her survival at age two from Old Tallow, a strange woman who treated her in a special way. The reader is immersed in the life of the Ojibwa in the mid-nineteenth century Lake Superior region: their lifestyle, survival techniques, and the changes occurring with the arrival of the white man. The characters and their relationships are well drawn. According to the author's note in the front, this is the first of several books that will trace her family history. I eagerly await the next one.
Children's Literature
We spend a year in the mid-19th century—through summer, fall, winter, and spring—with nine-year-old Omakayas, or Little Frog. First introduced in the author's The Birchbark House, she is the lens through which we see the activities of her Ojibwe people on their home island in Lake Superior. Anxiety is introduced by the arrival of six canoes filled with bedraggled hungry refugees from the encroaching Dakota and Lakota. But the people have been told that they must move into Lakota territory to make way for white settlers. Life goes on under great tension as they await word of their future. Omakayas enjoys time caring for a new baby, working, playing with her friends, including the important game of the title, until the time comes when they must leave. A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe and author of many adult novels on the Native American experience, Erdrich vividly recreates the life of a young girl with warmth and empathy, told from a long-overlooked point of view. There is a map on the end-papers; sketches liberally sprinkled throughout add to the story as do the included native legends. 2005, HarperCollins Children's Books, Ages 8 to 12.
—Sylvia Marantz
In this sequel to The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), a young Ojibwe girl embraces her own talents under the threat of a United States government that has determined to take her people's land for itself. The year is 1850, and although her family has survived smallpox and unforgiving winters, this latest danger seems insurmountable. Stragglers pushed off their land join the tribe, filling homes emptied by disease and introducing new rivalries. Omakayas feels the first stirrings of romance and proves to the adults that her abilities deserve respect, as she rescues her father from slow death in a frozen lake and helps visualize the new life that the tribe will build to the west. Still a girl, she bristles against the restrictions that adults place on her and struggles to control the jealousy she feels for another girl who has managed to throw off traditional constraints. The first book won enormous praise, including a National Book Award nomination, but this novel is even better. The themes are not only more profound, but the episodic structure of the previous novel is also much exceeded by the interweaving plot threads of young love, sibling rivalry, and frustration with gender roles. The threat that the federal government poses to the community is more than just a framing device; it penetrates all the other concerns of the novel, drawing them tightly together. This novel combines all the emotion and joy of The Birchbark House with an impressive deftness of structure. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, HarperCollins, 256p., and PLB Ages 12 to 15.
—Joe Sutliff Sanders
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Omakayas's tale, begun in The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), continues in this book. Older and more insightful, Omakayas begins to understand the elements of life more fully as she accepts her gift of telling dreams. Changes are coming to the Ojibwa people and she struggles to deal with all that she is experiencing and her dreams foretell. Her sister falls in love with a warrior, strange and lost members of her tribe come to rely on her, and her people are threatened with certain eviction from their homes and food supply. But traditions are strong, and after Omakayas is sent off into nature to face the spirits and her dreams, she learns to accept the fate of her people and comes to see it as an adventure, "the next life they would live together on this earth." Although the story is set on an island in Lake Superior in 1850, readers will identify with the everyday activities of the Ojibwa, from snowball fights to fishing excursions, providing a parallel to their own lives while encouraging an appreciation for one that is very different. The action is somewhat slow, but Erdrich's captivating tale of four seasons portrays a deep appreciation of our environment, our history, and our Native American sisters and brothers.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Sally M. Hunter
Edrich's graceful, vivid language engages the reader with her interesting characters...Filled with humor, adventure, and serious topics true to this period of history, The Birchbark House allows modern children to peek into the long-ago world of the Ojibwe.
Riverbank Review
Kirkus Reviews
With this volume, Erdrich (Grandmother's Pigeon, 1996, etc.) launches her cycle of novels about a 19th-century Ojibwa family, covering in vivid detail their everyday life as they move through the seasons of one year on an island on Lake Superior. A baby girl crawls among the bodies of her family, dead from smallpox. After that stinging beginning, an unexpectedly enjoyable story follows, replete with believable characterizations, humor, family love, and misadventures. Omakayas, now seven, adores baby brother Neewo, detests rambunctious five-year-old brother Pinch, and worships her beautiful teenage sister, Angeline. Omakayas works and plays through the summer and fall, learning the ways of her people; she has a frightful adventure with bears and adopts a young raven as a pet. But in winter smallpox again affects her life: Neewo dies, and Angeline is scarred for life. Omakayas cannot find her way back to happiness until an odd old woman tells her the truth of her past, in a novel that is by turns charming, suspenseful, and funny, and always bursting with life. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
9 Years

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