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The Porcupine Year (Birchbark House) Paperback – September 14, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Birchbark House Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–8—This sequel to The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999) and The Game of Silence (HarperCollins, 2005) continues the story of Omakayas, an Ojibwe girl who in 1852 is now 12 winters old. She and her family have been displaced by the United States government and are looking for a new place to live. When Omakayas and her younger brother become separated from their family during a night hunting expedition, Pinch has a run-in with a porcupine that he decides to keep as his medicine animal. The little gaag does indeed seem to bring them good fortune for a time, and Pinch is thereafter known as Quill. As Omakayas's extended family travels north toward Lac du Bois, where Mama's sister has settled, Erdrich's resonant descriptions of their day-to-day experiences give the narrative a graceful flow. The peaceful rhythms are all too quickly broken, however, when a party of Bwaanag captures two of their men. Soon after, Auntie Muskrat's no-good husband, Albert LaPautre, leads a raid on the small group, making off with all of their provisions, leaving them destitute as the winter months approach. The family finally reaches the big lake, and as they learn to find their places in the larger group, Omakayas must come to terms with her transition to womanhood. The events in this installment will both delight and appall readers. While the novel can stand alone, it will call new readers to catch up on the first two installments. Erdrich's charming pencil drawings interspersed throughout and her glossary of Ojibwe terms round out a beautiful offering.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The struggle to survive provides the exciting action in this sequel to The Birchbark House (1999) and The Game of Silence (2005), which takes place in 1852. But the gripping story is also about  pain, joy, sacrifice, and surprise. Omakayas, now 12, feels the anguish of displacement as her family, driven from its beloved Madeline Island by white settlers, endures violent raids in the freezing winter and comes close to starvation in its search for a home. Erdrich shows Omakaya’s love for her mischievous little brother, as well as her barely controlled jealousy of her sister. Always there is her bond with tough elderly Old Tallow, who rescued Omakayas as a baby and has loved her ever since. The question now is whether Old Tallow will survive, and for the first time, Omakayas hears her mentor’s childhood story—including the shocking brutality she endured, which helped make her so strong and nurturing. As in the previous books, Erdrich weaves in Ojibwa culture and language, defining the terms in an appended glossary, and she includes her own black-and-white sketches, which express her affection for small daily things. Based on Erdrich’s own family history, this celebration of life will move readers with its mischief, its anger, and its sadness. What is left unspoken is as powerful as the story told. Grades 4-7. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 840 (What's this?)
  • Series: Birchbark House (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064410307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064410304
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Louise Erdrich writes The Birchbark House. It becomes a National Book Award Finalist. No surprises there. Louise Erdrich writes The Game of Silence. It does slightly better than its predecessor and wins the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Very good, but still not surprising. Now the third book in Erdrich's "Birchbark House books" (surely there's a better name for them, right?) is present and accounted for. The Porcupine Year picks up where the last book left off without a glitch, hitch, or hiccup. Readers who have never read Erdrich's books in this series, or who haven't seen them in a very long time won't need much help in catching up and understanding Erdrich's magnificent world. How far will this latest installment in the chronicles of Omakayas and her family go? It remains to be seen. The only thing I can say with certainty is that The Porcupine Year does not disappoint. It gives the series a richness and fullness it might not have had before.

It's 1852 and 12-year-old Omakayas and her Ojibwe family are traveling west to escape the expansion of the white settlers encroaching on their land. In trying to decide where to go next, the family and their companions must choose a route. At last they decide to go north to be reunited with family there. All too soon the trip turns more perilous than anyone expected. There are other tribes to avoid, lost children to take care of, fires to escape, and a traitor whose actions bring about the death of a beloved character. Still, through it all Omakayas keeps a clear head and a loving heart.
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Format: Hardcover
Omakayas, or Little Frog, is now twelve winters old. Her family, members of the Ojibwe tribe, have been forced from their homes on the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker, and are now making the long journey to Lac Du Bois, where members of her extended family are living.

Omakayas and her family face many hardships throughout their journey. Omakayas and her brother, Quill, are almost killed in the rushing waters of a swollen river; their provisions for winter are stolen by an evil French trapper; and Old Tallow, Omakayas' elder, dies in a battle with a bear. Omakayas also becomes a woman during the hard winter they endure in the forest.

Through all of this, Omakayas discovers first love, the great power of storytelling, and her own inner strength.

THE PORCUPINE YEAR is the third installment in Erdrich's series of Omakayas and her family. Those who have read the first two novels will be happily reunited with the main character and follow her on new adventures. The chapters are short and flow well together. The illustrations also add to the humor and drama of the story.

Erdrich states in her author's note that Omakayas' story will continue into a fourth novel set in the 1860's. I am sure fans of the series will be excited to see what becomes of Omakayas as she continues her journey into adulthood.

Reviewed by: LadyJay
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Format: Hardcover
In Louise Erdrich's third novel about the joys and sorrows of a family of Ojibwe during the mid-19th century, Omakayas, the heroine of the series, is 12 winters old and feels caught in an in-between place: "She was that creature somewhere between a child and a woman --- a person ready to test her intelligence, her hungers. A dreamer who did not yet know her limits. A hunter, like her brother, who was beginning to possess the knowledge of all that moved and breathed. A friend who did not know how far her love might extend. A daughter who still winced at her mother's commands and who loved and shyly feared her distant father. A girl who'd come to know something of her strength and who wanted challenge, and would get it."

Omakayas's in-betweenness is mirrored by the exile of her family. After being pushed off Lake Superior's Madeline Island (the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker) by the United States government in order to make room for white settlers, Omakayas's family is on the move, hoping to rejoin the rest of their extended family near the Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota.

Their journey is fraught with dangers and marked by growing responsibilities for Omakayas and her younger brother, Pinch. The novel opens with an alternating harrowing and humorous episode, which begins with the siblings losing control of their canoe in a rapid-filled river and culminates with Pinch's painful encounter with a porcupine. The boy's connection to the porcupine, which becomes his close companion, also results in his renaming as Quill. With his new name seems to come a new, more mature personality, as Omakayas's bad-mouthed, troublemaking little brother continues to exhibit new thoughtfulness, maturity and skill as a hunter and trapper.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm so grateful to Ms. Erdrich for this series. My seven year old granddaughter and I read them together, and it is clear from her expressions and her continued desire to hear just one more chapter, that the stories resonate with her. They are a great mix of history (often heartbreaking) and human dynamics, and a view into what for our family, is a different way of approaching the spirituality of everyday living.
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