The Game of Silence

The Game of Silence

4.0 10
by Louise Erdrich

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Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior. One day in 1850, Omakayas′s island is visited by a group of mysterious people. From them, she learns that the chimookomanag, or white people, want Omakayas and her people to leave their island and move farther west.

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Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior. One day in 1850, Omakayas′s island is visited by a group of mysterious people. From them, she learns that the chimookomanag, or white people, want Omakayas and her people to leave their island and move farther west.

That day, Omakayas realizes that something so valuable, so important that she never knew she had it in the first place, could be in danger: Her way of life. Her home.

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)

Chicago Tribune
Wisconsin State Journal
“Full of humor, richness and heart.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Birchbark House , #2
Sold by:
Sales rank:
900L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Game of Silence

By Louise Erdrich


ISBN: 0-06-029789-1

Chapter One

The Raggedy Ones

When they were close enough to touch bottom with their paddles, the people poured out of the nearly swamped canoes. The grown-ups held little ones and the little ones held even smaller ones. There were so many people jammed into each boat that it was a wonder they had made it across. The grown-ups, the ones who wore clothes, bunched around the young. A murmur of pity started among the people who had gathered on shore when they heard Omakayas's shout, for the children had no clothing at all, they were naked. In a bony, hungry, anxious group, the people from the boats waded ashore. They looked at the ground, fearfully and in shame. They were like skinny herons with long poles for legs and clothes like drooping feathers. Only their leader, a tall old man wearing a turban of worn cloth, walked with a proud step and held his head up as a leader should. He stood calmly, waiting for his people to assemble. When everyone was ashore and a crowd was gathered expectantly, he raised his thin hand and commanded silence with his eyes.

Everyone's attention was directed to him as he spoke.

"Brothers and sisters, we are glad to see you! Daga, please open your hearts to us! We have come from far away."

He hardly needed to urge kindness. Immediately, families greeted cousins, old friends, lost relatives, those they hadn't seen in years. Fishtail, a close friend of Omakayas's father, clasped the old chief in his arms. The dignified chief's name was Miskobines, Red Thunder, and he was Fishtail's uncle. Blankets were soon draping bare shoulders, and the pitiful naked children were covered, too, with all of the extra clothing that the people could find. Food was thrust into the hungry people's hands-strips of dried fish and bannock bread, maple sugar and fresh boiled meat. The raggedy visitors tried to contain their hunger, but most fell upon the food and ate wolfishly. One by one, family by family, the poor ones were taken to people's homes. In no time, the jeemaanan were pulled far up on the beach and the men were examining the frayed seams and fragile, torn stitching of spruce that held the birchbark to the cedar frames. Omakayas saw her grandmother, her sister, and her mother, each leading a child. Her mother's eyes were wide-set and staring with anger, and she muttered explosive words underneath her breath. That was only her way of showing how deeply she was affected; still, Omakayas steered clear. Her brother, Pinch, was followed by a tall skinny boy hastily wrapped in a blanket. He was the son of the leader, Miskobines, and he was clearly struggling to look dignified. The boy looked back in exhaustion, as if wishing for a place to sit and rest. But seeing Omakayas, he flushed angrily and mustered strength to stagger on ahead. Omakayas turned her attention to a woman who trailed them all. One child clutched her ragged skirt. She carried another terribly thin child on a hip. In the other arm she clutched a baby. The tiny bundle in her arms made no movement and seemed limp, too weak to cry.

The memory of her poor baby brother, Neewo, shortened Omakayas's breath. She jumped after the two, leaving the intrigue of the story of their arrival for later, as well as the angry boy's troubling gaze. Eagerly, she approached the woman and asked if she could carry the baby.

The woman handed over the little bundle with a tired sigh. She was so poor that she did not have a cradle board for the baby, or a warm skin bag lined with rabbit fur and moss, or even a trade blanket or piece of cloth from the trader's store. For a covering, she had only a tiny piece of deerskin wrapped into a rough bag. Even Omakayas's dolls had better clothing and better care. Omakayas cuddled the small thing close. The baby inside the bag was bare and smelled like he needed a change of the cattail fluff that served as his diaper. Omakayas didn't mind. She carried the baby boy with a need and happiness that the woman, so relieved to hand the baby over, could not have guessed at. Having lost her own brother, Omakayas took comfort in this baby's tiny weight and light breath. She would protect him, she promised as they walked. She would keep him company and give him all the love she had stored up but could no longer give to her little brother Neewo.

The baby peered watchfully into her eyes. Though tiny and helpless, he seemed determined to live. With a sigh he rooted for milk, for something, anything. Anxiously, Omakayas hurried toward the camp.

The angry boy with the long stick legs and frowning face sat next to Pinch by the fire. He glared up when Omakayas entered the clearing, but then his whole attention returned to the bowl of stew in his hands. He stared into it, tense as an animal. He tried without success to keep from gulping the stew too fast. His hands shook so hard that he nearly dropped the bowl at one point, but with a furious groan he righted himself and attained a forced calm. Straining to control his hunger, he lifted the bowl to his lips and took a normal portion of meat between his teeth. Chewed. Closed his eyes. When Omakayas saw from beneath one half-shut eyelid the gleam of desperation, she looked away. Not fast enough.

"What are you staring at?" the boy growled.


"Don't even bother with her," said Pinch, delighted to sense an ally with whom he might be able to torment his sister. "She's always staring at people. She's a homely owl!"

"Weweni gagigidoon," said Angeline, throwing an acorn that hit Pinch square on the forehead. She told her brother to speak with care, then commanded him, "Booni'aa, leave her alone!"


Excerpted from The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Game of Silence 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When it comes to stories of the Ojibwe people, it seems to this reader/listener that Louise Erdich writes not only with her pen but also with her heart. A native of North Dakota, Erdrich is of German-American/Chippewa descent, and she is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Thus, her novel 'The Birchbark House,' which introduced young Omakayas, glistened with insight and admiration for characters who lived in the 1850s. The same may be said of 'The Game of Silence,' beautifully delivered by voice actress Anna Fields. Now, of course, Omakayas is older and she has learned a great deal as she goes about her days among her people, all following the shifting seasons. There have been changes: a sister has found someone to love, and Omakayas becomes aware that she possesses a unique gift - her dreams foretell the future. As the story opens, days are peaceful on a Lake Superior island. The people live in houses made of birchbark during the summer, then as the days grow cooler they prepare for harvest. When winter falls all will leave their birchbark houses for cedar cabins close to a town, LaPointe. However, the Ojibwe's serenity is interrupted by white men who want them to leave the island, want to push them away from the land they call home. Intended for young listeners, those in grades 5 through 8, 'The Game of Silence' will not only offer them a wealth of historical detail but also a reminder of the beauty and bounty of nature. - Gail Cooke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was horrible. I would give it no stars if possible. The chapters are too long and get off topic to easily. Don't waste your money on this book. Get an awesome book like the iron king or half moon investegation. Now those are real books not this piece of crap.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Similler to the book the birchbark house an it is a really good book. Poor neewo
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great! I dont disagree about Rick Riordans books, but this is 1000000 star worthy!