Thursday, January 05, 2006


The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich, Scholastic, Inc., 2000, 239pp

One of my reading groups was originally a mother/daughter group, so traditionally they read a Young Adult fiction selection in December. That was fine with me and fit in with my plan to read at least one YA book a month, since I am teaching readers of that age.

In the story, Omakaya is the second to the oldest child in an Ojibwa family, living on an island in Lake Superior near the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in 1847. The book covers one year of her life and is broken into the four seasons beginning in summer.

The summer is when the family moves away from the "town" and builds a house of birchbark near the shore, because it is convenient to all the fishing they do. Omakaya is eleven and has a bothersome younger brother and a spoiled older sister. She tries to be a dutiful daughter, which includes plenty of hard and tedious tasks, but she has longings that mostly go unfulfilled. As we follow Omakaya thru her days, we find out what her life is like, meet the rest of the family and get pulled into Ojibwa life.

The writing is excellent and even heartwrenching when a visitor brings the White Man's disease (small pox) the following winter. Omakaya must nurse the whole family and deal with loss. Out of that tragedy she learns of her powers as a healer and discovers her true past. I really liked it and look forward to reading Erdrich's adult novels.


  1. My boyfriend is Ojibwa, well his great grandmother was all Chippewa/Ojibwa, and I'm always looking for information about the history of his people. Thanks for posting on this book.

  2. Hi piksea. Glad to be of service. I read the story of the boyfriend on your blog yesterday. I am glad you found a good one!