The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House

4.0 13
by Louise Erdrich

View All Available Formats & Editions

Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior. It is 1850 and the lives of the Ojibwe have returned to a familiar rhythm: they build their birchbark houses in the summer, go to the ricing camps in the fall to harvest and feast, and move to their cozy cedar log cabins near the town of LaPointe


Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior. It is 1850 and the lives of the Ojibwe have returned to a familiar rhythm: they build their birchbark houses in the summer, go to the ricing camps in the fall to harvest and feast, and move to their cozy cedar log cabins near the town of LaPointe before the first snows.

Satisfying routines of Omakayas's days are interrupted by a surprise visit from a group of desperate and mysterious people. From them, she learns that all their lives may drastically change. The chimookomanag, or white people, want Omakayas and her people to leave their island in Lake Superior and move farther west. Omakayas realizes that something so valuable, so important that she never knew she had it in the first place, is in danger: Her home. Her way of life.

In this captivating sequel to National Book nominee The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich continues the story of Omakayas and her family.

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)

Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
5 CDs
Product dimensions:
6.74(w) x 6.54(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Louise Erdrich is the author of twelve novels as well as volumes of poetry, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her debut novel, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent novel, The Plague of Doves, a New York Times bestseller, received the highest praise from Philip Roth, who wrote, "Louise Erdrich's imaginative freedom has reached its zenith—The Plague of Doves is her dazzling masterpiece." Louise Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.

Brief Biography

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
June 7, 1954
Place of Birth:
Little Falls, Minnesota
B.A., Dartmouth College, 1976; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1979

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Birchbark House 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book by an an adult author made for older kids. Experience Native American life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i do not like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lindsay33 More than 1 year ago
This children's chapter book follows the life a young Ojibwa girl and main character, Omakayas, her family, and their struggles to survive through a rough and trying year. Along the way, Omakayas begins to realize that there is something about herself that she doesn't quite understand, something she strives to learn more about. On the wake of a terrible winter, Omakayas is forced to help her family and nurse them back to health when they are stricken with small pox. Readers will surely grow to love little Omakayas with her resilient ways, curious mind, and loving heart. Not only is it refreshing to follow Omakayas, but her unique and loving family as well, each one with different characteristics and personalities. Readers will find themselves happy, sad, amused, worried, and anxious while reading this tale of a family trying to make it through life, and a little girl that's determined to help and love her family to the fullest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about the life of a young Native American girl named Omakaya. She is part of the Anishinabe tribe on Lake Superior. The story is told by Omakaya herself. She tells of the life of her family and how they faced many hardships over the course of the year along with the joyous moments they share. She tells of moving into the birchbark house at the beginning of the story and how she helped her mother tan the hide and sew the bark to build the house. She tells of the hunger they face and the disease that was brought in by a stranger one night. The joys and sorrow that the family faces when losing a loved one keeps the reader going. This is a good book to use in a classroom.
Sara_Forbing More than 1 year ago
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, told the story of young Omakaya. Omakaya and her family are members of the Anishinabe tribe, the original name of the Ojibwa tribe. Together, her family faces many hardships over the course of a year. The book is broken down into sections by the seasons, and each section details what the family went through during that season. It begins with spring as the family prepares to move into their new birchbark home, then leads into summer as they work and prepare for the cold weather. Fall arrives and brings the harvesting of the wild rice and the move back into the log house before snow. Then winter falls upon them bringing many cold days and hardships before spring arrives with the maple-sugaring celebration. As the book progresses, readers are introduced to Omakaya's family and friends, along with the troubles and good times her family comes upon. The laughter and the sad times pull readers into the book, as they hope to read more about the lives of the Anishinabe tribe family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this emotion changing book, this book talks about the life of the Ojibwa Indians. Also, how they struggled through winter and fall.The Birch bark House is explaining the ways of how the Ojibwa tribe lived and how they struggled with small pox, in which they got it from the white men. The characters in this book are Omakayas, Andeg the crow, Neewo, Dey Dey, Nokomis, and many others along the way. Omakayas and her tribe are struggling with a sickness called small pox. This is their big problem. Omakayas and her family struggled with losses of her family members and hunger problems.Although it was sad, it was an awesome book. It¿s filled with adventures, humor, and drama. This book was like a roller coaster it¿s boring at one point then your rating goes up!If you read this book you¿ll be sad when people die, but when you read the book you¿ll have an emotion changing experience. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich is a tear jerking story of love and survival that will give you another chance to appreciate wildlife. In this story the main character Omakayas has to fight for survival when a visitor comes and brings Small Pox to the village. Omakayas has to cope with the heartbreaking journey of a lost loved one, and learns an important lesson. This book is a heart warming book because it is full of adventures and excitement that will make you realize the important things about family and responsibility. So if you are looking for a good book that will touch your heart, read The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Birch bark House is the story of an Ojibwa girl named Onakayas. She learns many thnings, and survives the hardships of winter and the killing disease of small pox. This is an awesome book, and ideal for book reports. This is definatley something you should read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so cool. I love how it describes the life of the ojibiwa tribe and its people. I wish more authers would focus on the life of indians and how hard it might be sometimes to live like them. I also think it shows how hard illness'were back then.l
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Birchbark house is almost the best book but you should still read the book I would give it 4 stars out of 4 stars because this is my opinion but the book is mainly about a little girl that always wanted to babaysit her little brother Neewo that was his name because this is a native amarican book anyways its about a book where a little girl wants to babaysit her little brother and now hes getting big and the girl doesn't want to babaysit him anymore and wishes he was dead! Have fun!