Monday, October 17, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE

I discovered this book in the summer and really enjoyed it. I like reading about the details of life from different perspectives and time periods. This would be a really good book to share with students to help them learn about another culture.

Description from Amazon:


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.

The Birchbark House was written by Louise Erdrich and published by Hyperion in 1999.

As a reader and teacher:

I really enjoyed this story – especially all the details of the chores Omakayas did, and her relationship with her family and the mischievous crow, Andeg. I learned more about the Ojibwa culture and thought more deeply about what they may have experienced. This story was really a survival story – one where the main character faced a variety of hardships, including sickness and death. It kept me hooked until the end.

I also liked the main character’s special connectedness to animals and how she learned from her family. 

As a writer: 

Since I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior, I was particularly interested in the setting. The author used lots of specific detail in her descriptions. Even though this story did not follow a traditional plot, the family conflicts and hardships, as well the development of the character Omakayas kept me interested and wanting to finish the story. The way the author sprinkled in traditional language added to the authenticity of the story (there is a glossary at the back).

Opening Line:

“The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl.”

Quotes:

“The air was fresh, delicious, smelling of new leaves in the woods, just-popped-out mushrooms, the pelts of young deer.”

“Everything was ice in her dream, and she was sliding on it.”

Other Info:

Louise Erdrich has written several other books in the Birchbark House series.

Here’s a discussion of the importance of names for the Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, in The Birchbark House.



8 comments:

  1. I'm interesting in the setting too, since I live in Michigan. Sounds like a great historical fiction story that can make us appreciate how easy our "hard" lives are in comparison.

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  2. I used to love Little House on the Prairie. I think this diverse viewpoint would be an interesting read. Thanks for the review!

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  3. I love these kinds of books where you learn history through a good story. Thanks for sharing. I'll be looking for this one.

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  4. I love Little House on the Prairie and think this diverse viewpoint would be an interesting read! Thanks for your review!

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  5. You have thoroughly sold me on this book. I will be recommending it for our school library--right after I read it myself! :)

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  6. I read this last year with my kids and really enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of the Little House books too. I'm sure having lived in the setting makes it all the more meaningful.

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  7. This sounds really great. We have a lot of Tunkhannock and Delaware history around here. I'll be interested to see the cultural differences. Thanks.

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  8. I do like historical fiction and fiction set in other cultures, so I will probably check this out. Thanks for the review.

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