Cover image for The birchbark house
The birchbark house
Publication Information:
[S.l. : s.n., 2002]
Physical Description:
10 books in a cloth bag ; 37 x 15 cm. + 1 folder.
General Note:
A cloth bag containing ten copies of the title and a folder with miscellaneous notes, discussion questions, biographical information, and reading lists to assist book group discussion leaders.
Girl from Spirit Island -- Neebin (Summer): Birchbark house -- Old tallow -- Return -- Andeg: Deydey's ghost story -- Dagwaging (Fall): Fishtail's pipe -- Pinch -- Move -- First snow -- Biboon (Winter): Blue ferns: Grandma's story: Fishing the dark side of the lake -- Visitor -- Hunger: Nanabozho and Muskrat make an earth -- Zeegwun (Spring) -- Maple sugar time -- One Horn's protection -- Full circle -- Note on the Ojibwa language -- Glossary and pronounciation guide of Ojibwa terms.
Omakayas, a seven-year-old Native American girl of the Ojibwa tribe, lives through the joys of summer and the perils of winter on an island in Lake Superior in 1847. For as long as Omakayas can remember, she and her family have lived on the land her people call the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. Although the chimookoman, white people, encroach more and more on their land, life continues much as it always has. Every summer the family builds a new birchbark house; every fall they go to ricing camp to harvest and feast; they move to the cedar log house before the first snows arrive, and celebrate the end of the long, cold winters at maple-sugaring camp. In between, Omakayas fights with her annoying little brother, Pinch, plays with the adorable baby, Neewo, and tries to be grown-up like her beautiful older sister, Angeline. But the satisfying rhythms of their lives are shattered when a visitor comes to their lodge one winter night, bringing with him an invisible enemy that will change things forever. Set on an island in Lake Superior in 1847, and filled with fascinating details of traditional Ojibwa life, The Birchbark House is a breathtaking novel by one of America's most gifted and original writers.


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Book club kit KT J FICTION ERD 1 1

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"[In this] story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children's stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at 'them' as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family's history, wants to tell about 'us', from the inside. The Birchbark House establishes its own ground, in the vicinity of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books." --The New York Times Book Review

Author Notes

Karen Louise Erdrich was born on June 7, 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where both of her parents were employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Erdrich graduated from Dartmouth College in 1976 with an AB degree, and she received a Master of Arts in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University in 1979.

Erdrich published a number of poems and short stories from 1978 to 1982. In 1981 she married author and anthropologist Michael Dorris, and together they published The World's Greatest Fisherman, which won the Nelson Algren Award in 1982. In 1984 she won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Love Medicine, which is an expansion of a story that she had co-written with Dorris. Love Medicine was also awarded the Virginia McCormick Scully Prize (1984), the Sue Kaufman Prize (1985) and the Los Angeles Times Award for best novel (1985).

In addition to her prose, Erdrich has written several volumes of poetry, a textbook, children's books, and short stories and essays for popular magazines. She has been the recipient of numerous awards for professional excellence, including the National Magazine Fiction Award in 1983 and a first-prize O. Henry Award in 1987. Erdrich has also received the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, the Western Literacy Association Award, the 1999 World Fantasy Award, and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2006. In 2007 she refused to accept an honorary doctorate from the University of North Dakota in protest of its use of the "Fighting Sioux" name and logo.

Erdrich's novel The Round House made the New York Times bestseller list in 2013. Her other New York Times bestsellers include Future Home of the Living God (2017).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 childhoodÄa love of the outdoors, a reluctance to do chores, devotion to a petÄas 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

With a title and structure that inescapably recall Laura Ingalls Wilder's family stories, Louise Erdrich here paints a detailed portrait of Ojibwa life in the mid-nineteenth century. Seven-year-old Omakayas lives hap-pily with her extended Ojibwa family on the Island of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker on Lake Superior. Although the reader knows her as ""the girl from spirit island"" who alone escaped the smallpox that decimated her people when she was a baby, Omakayas grows up without knowledge of her past. Erdrich traces a full season in the life of Omakayas, in which her adopted family succumbs to smallpox but the young girl lives to nurture everyone except her beloved baby brother back to health. It is also a season in which Omakayas learns her true heritage from the crusty and courageous Tallow, who saved her as a child that she might grow to save others, and complete a circle earlier begun. Although Omakayas's people experience extraordinary hardship as they move with the seasons in search of food and shelter, they also find much joy in play. The antics of Andeg, Omakayas's pet crow who can say ""gaygo"" (""stop it"") to her irksome brother Pinch, and the mischief of two reappearing bear cubs prevent this sometimes-sentimental story from lapsing into the over-reverential. Along with painstaking descriptions of household tasks and customs, Erdrich crafts images of tender beauty (Omakayas's father's moccasins, ""soft and open...seemed relieved to flop inside the door and nestle into the safe embrace of Mama's pair"") while weaving Ojibwa words seamlessly into the text. Her gentle spot art throughout complements the sweetness, sadness, and humor of this first of several projected stories that will ""attempt to retrace [her] own family's history"" and thereby redress the imbalances of a literature that erases or distorts the Native American's place in our country's past. s.p.b. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-8. Why has no one written this story before? Why are there so few good children's books about the people displaced by the little house in the big woods? In the first of a cycle of novels set at the time of the Laura Ingalls Wilder classics, Erdrich makes us imagine what it was like for an Ojibwa Indian child when the chimookoman (non-Indian white people) were opening up the land. Omakayas is eight years old in 1847, living on an island in Lake Superior. The technical detail may be too much for readers who want more action--there's a lot about what the Ojibwa ate on the island through the seasons, how they grew it and gathered it and cooked it, what they wore and how they made it, how they built the birchbark house, step by step--but Little House fans will enjoy that. And Erdrich is not reverential about the work: Omakayas is bored with the endless scraping and rubbing of hides; what she loves are the yearly traditions, such as the maple sugaring in the spring, the storytelling in the winter night. The characters are wonderfully individualized, humane and funny: Omakayas is jealous of her beautiful, older sister, impatient with her obnoxious brother, fiercely attached to her baby brother, excited and also tense when her half-French father is home from his work in the fur trade. She has a special bond with Old Tallow, a rugged, solitary, bear-hunting woman who is afraid of nothing. Erdrich's occasional small, detailed portraits (many resemble her) are drawn from photographs; they express the warm dailiness of Omakayas' world. There is a real plot from the very first devastating paragraph: "The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl . . . Smallpox had killed them all." Who is the baby girl? The mystery comes full circle at the end of the book. The whites are on the edge of the story, but they are there, pushing closer, more of them on the island every day, wanting the Ojibwa to leave. Then, just casually, quietly, in the middle of a paragraph in a middle chapter called "The Visitor," a thin, feverish French voyageur comes to spend the night in the village. He dies of smallpox. In the subsequent epidemic Omakayas loses her beloved baby brother and her best friend. The sorrow nearly overcomes her. Little House readers will discover a new world, a different version of a story they thought they knew. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-In her first novel for young readers, Erdrich has written and illustrated an evocative work about a young Ojibwa girl who lives on an island in Lake Superior in 1847. Although white settlers continue to encroach on Ojibwa land, Omakayas and her family continue to live as her people have lived for centuries. Each summer they build a new birchbark house; each winter's end is celebrated at the maple-sugaring camp; and every day the child lovingly cares for her infant brother and puts up with Pinch, her annoying younger brother. The ebb and flow of these seasonal and familial rhythms is abruptly altered when an ailing white man enters their midst, unknowingly bringing smallpox to the settlement. Omakayas's family falls ill and the young girl, who surprisingly does not contract the disease, nurses them with her last ounce of strength. But she cannot save her beloved baby brother, who dies in her arms. Omakayas falls into a severe depression that only time, rest, and the intervention of a taciturn, eccentric neighbor can overcome. While this title will not appeal to fans of fast-paced action, readers who enjoy a variety of deftly drawn characters, relationships that ring true, and fascinating details about the daily life of the Ojibwa will be attracted to this endearing and irrepressible girl.-Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Southgate, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

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)

Table of Contents

The Girl from Spirit Islandp. 1
Neebin (Summer)
1. The Birchbark Housep. 5
2. Old Tallowp. 19
3. The Returnp. 33
4. Andegp. 51
Deydey's Ghost Storyp. 61
Dagwaging (Fall)
5. Fishtail's Pipep. 73
6. Pinchp. 82
7. The Movep. 99
8. First Snowp. 107
Biboon (Winter)
9. The Blue Fernsp. 121
Grandma's Story: Fishing the Dark Side of the Lakep. 134
10. The Visitorp. 140
11. Hungerp. 162
Nanabozho and Muskrat Make An Earthp. 172
Zeegwun (Spring)
12. Maple Sugar Timep. 189
13. One Horn's Protectionp. 216
14. Full Circlep. 221
Note on the Ojibwa languagep. 240
Glossary and pronounciation guide of Ojibwa termsp. 241