A Blog of Children's Literature

The Birchbark House March 3, 2011

The Birchbark HouseThe Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (2002)

Historical Fiction, 244 pages

As Erdrich’s first self-illustrated book for young readers, The Birchbark House tells a year’s tale in the life of Omakayas and her family, part of the Ojibwa people who live on the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker in Lake Superior. Erdrich does a fine job weaving culture, spirituality, reality, and history in this novel that portrays the tough life of the Ojibwa people in 1847 who lived off the land, worked with fur traders and missionaries, and fought small pox as the disease infected their people. While the book deals with many weighty topics, Erdrich smoothly introduces a young reader to all these historical issues without being overwhelming. I commend Erdrich for taking on the difficult task of representing an entire people and history as accurately as possible while drawing the reader into the story’s beautiful narrative. While recommended for ages 9-12 by Amazon, The Birchbark House is designed for a particular kind of reader who has patience and is mature enough to understand the heaviness of death and hardship. I would probably suggest it to a younger middle school student or very mature elementary school reader.


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