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The Birchbark House Paperback – May 13, 2002
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Nineteenth-century American pioneer life was introduced to thousands of young readers by Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books. With The Birchbark House, award-winning author Louise Erdrich's first novel for young readers, this same slice of history is seen through the eyes of the spirited, 7-year-old Ojibwa girl Omakayas, or Little Frog, so named because her first step was a hop. The sole survivor of a smallpox epidemic on Spirit Island, Omakayas, then only a baby girl, was rescued by a fearless woman named Tallow and welcomed into an Ojibwa family on Lake Superior's Madeline Island, the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. We follow Omakayas and her adopted family through a cycle of four seasons in 1847, including the winter, when a historically documented outbreak of smallpox overtook the island.
Readers will be riveted by the daily life of this Native American family, in which tanning moose hides, picking berries, and scaring crows from the cornfield are as commonplace as encounters with bear cubs and fireside ghost stories. Erdrich--a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwa--spoke to Ojibwa elders about the spirit and significance of Madeline Island, read letters from travelers, and even spent time with her own children on the island, observing their reactions to woods, stones, crayfish, bear, and deer. The author's softly hewn pencil drawings infuse life and authenticity to her poetic, exquisitely wrought narrative. Omakayas is an intense, strong, likable character to whom young readers will fully relate--from her mixed emotions about her siblings, to her discovery of her unique talents, to her devotion to her pet crow Andeg, to her budding understanding of death, life, and her role in the natural world. We look forward to reading more about this brave, intuitive girl--and wholeheartedly welcome Erdrich's future series to the canon of children's classics. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The author's first novel for children centers on young Omakayas and her Ojibwa family who live on an island in Lake Superior in 1847; PW's Best Books citation called it "captivating." Ages 9-up. (Aug.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
The father tells a ghost story which involves the ghosts morbidly discussing eating humans. The ghost story not only contributed nothing to the somewhat poor story line of the book, but it was the final nail in the coffin. Not appropriate for the intended audience of a 6 or 7 year old girl. After finishing the book, I threw the book into the garbage.
I bought this book for my 10 year old daughter who is an avid reader. One day she left it in the bathroom and I happened to pick it up. Once in hand, I could scarcely put it back down. I loved how true-to-life this story is. Unlike many children's books about Native American life, the author doesn't portray it as one long camping trip. She doesn't tiptoe around the hardships they encountered. As much as I don't want to ache and cry over the ordeals they suffered, the realism of this story is part of it's beauty. It is the perfect balance of history and fiction. It is a perfect glimpse into what life was like for them, seen through the eyes of a child's experiences and emotions.
A great story.