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The Birchbark House
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The Birchbark House (The Birchbark House)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  2,783 ratings  ·  443 reviews
Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior. It is 1850 and the lives of the Ojibwe have returned to a familiar rhythm: they build their birchbark houses in the summer, go to the ricing camps in the fall to harvest and feast, and move to their cozy cedar log cabins near the town of LaPointe before the ...more
Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 2003 by Scholastic (first published 1999)
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Jun 10, 2010 Melody rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: A Bevy of Burtons
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a gorgeous book - a year in the life of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe girl who lives at the edge of Lake Superior in 1847. The book weaves together a dozen different strands of narrative - Omakayas' family responsibilities and affections; her work as young woman; the subsistence patterns of her community; the effect of trade and sickness on the Ojibwe; the potential for treaties and removal by the Americans; the world of medicine, and of spirits; the presence of missionaries and their schooli ...more
Lisa Vegan
Thank you a million times over to the Children's Books group because I’d tried to read this book some time back, got about ¼ or so the way through it, and put it down because I didn’t enjoy the writing style. Because it’s one of the books chosen as a group read for this book, and because I know a couple of people who love this book, I decided to again try to read it. I’m so grateful that I took this new opportunity.

I have such a difficult time with this author’s writing style. Many readers love
Amanda H
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So, not only can Louise Erdrich write excellent adult fiction, but she is also a master at children's stories.

This book would be a perfect way for young readers to branch out and explore different cultures, as well as different time periods. The book focuses mainly on Omakayas (Oh-MAH-kay-as) and her life and the customs of an Oijbwa tribe. I loved Omakayas--she was such a great protagonist. She's smart beyond her years, but she's also just a normal kid, and that makes her relatable to her read
Benjamin Thomas
This is a story that covers a year in the life of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe girl who lives at the edge of Lake Superior in 1847. It reminds me a lot of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in that it is a young girl’s perspective on everyday life and especially the interactions with her family. Life can be fun as well as challenging and even occasionally catastrophic. She also interacts with animals, most especially a crow that becomes a sort of pet. While definitely written for young ...more
One of our literature books for 3rd grade at our school is Little House on the Prairie. Last year, the full-blooded Navajo parent of one of my students was bothered enough by the portrayal of Native Americans in that book that he asked to come in and talk to the class about his tribe.

We decided to add a literature book from a Native American perspective to help balance things out a little. I was delighted to finally find this one.

Omakayas, the main character in the book is 7 turning 8 years old,
Chris  Ibert
This is a beautifully written book about Native American life in the time of Westward Expansion. It focuses on the Ojibwe tribe, located on an island in Lake Superior. It gives the reader a very clear picture of day-to-day life in the tribe, with the center of the story being one family in particular. As it is written for adolescent readers, or even a little younger, it describes their life through the eyes of an 8 year old girl and the author captures her innocence authentically. At times in th ...more
In The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich introduces the reader to Omakayas, which means Little Frog. Omakayas lives with her family on the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker in Lake Superior in 1847. Her father is part Ojibwa and part French. He spends most of the year traveling by canoe trading along Lake Superior to provide for his family. Her mother and grandmother spend most of their days taking care of the family, raising crops, gathering from the forest, and sewing. They live a hard l ...more
American Indian Youth Literature Award 2006

This is the story of Omakayas, which means little frog, and is told from her perspective. She has parents, a grandmother, an older sister, and two younger brothers. At the beginning of the story, the family is moving from their winter home in a cedar cabin to put together their summer home, a birchbark house. Omakayas has a different relationship with each member of her family. Her father is most often off trading along Lake Superior, where they live. S
Jamie Leslie
In the book The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, a young girl named Omakayas lives with her family in the year 1849. When she was a baby, she was the lone survivor of a smallpox outbreak that killed everyone in her village. She then was placed with a foster family though she has no idea that she is not related to them by blood. This story proceeds to tell about Omakayas and her crisis with discovering who she is and what she is meant to do in her life. A great story filled with destiny, hope, ...more
Amy Rae
I'm basically heartbroken that I never had a chance to read this as a child, because I would have eaten it up and begged for seconds. This is a perfect little book--heartwrenching, yes, but full of good humor and strength as well. It's one of those books where I basically can't figure out what to say about it here, because all I really want to do is hug it to my chest and find a small child to read it to.
I occasionally read, and enjoy, young adult literature. The best of it is certainly on a par with any "adult" fiction. This book is aimed at even younger readers, maybe late elementary or middle schoolers. That may be part of the problem I had with it. It describes in some detail the daily life of a family of Ojibwa living on an island in Lake Superior sometime in the 1800s (the time frame is never very clear, but there is plenty of talk of the encroaching white man). Unfortunately, there's not ...more
The story "The Birchbark House" by Louise Erdrich takes place in Lake Superior in 1847. The story is about Omakayas who is 7 years old who is moving to another camp because of what they do each fall. On a cold winter night, a mysterious man knocks at Omakayas' cabin. He presents Omakaya and her family a "friend" of his which is really an invisible person. But as the story moves on Omakaya learns some family history of her ancestors. On a rating of 1-5, 5 being the best, I would give it a 3 becau ...more
Andrea Snoddy
This book was very relatable to me, I have a big family just like Okamayas in the book and I don't always get along with my siblings either. The unusual use of natural resources and the stories told and how utensils and objects are made and used was like a flash to the past for me and it was fun to jump into the story and live it myself.
This was just ok. I read it for the school library. I'm probably not the best judge since Native American lore is not of particular interest to me. However, I enjoyed the picturesque quality about it and it was interesting enough that I wanted to finish it. The main character is an 8 year old girl and I did find the depressive theme a but too heavy for one so young. It felt like an older person talking but maybe that was intentional on he authors part. I think she wanted her to be special. Nothi ...more
Anna Smithberger
I really enjoyed The Birchbark House, and I wish I had discovered it sooner. Needless to say, I really need to read more Louise Erdrich.
Auspicious beginning to a trilogy of books by Native American author Louise Erdrich. Omakayas is rescued from an island decimated by smallpox by a strong and individual woman, Old Tallow, and is adopted by an Anishabe family. Their beloved island, Island of the Golden Woodpecker, is coveted by English settlers and the traditional life of the tribe is changing. When smallpox hits this community, Omakayas (Little Frog) is able to help nurse some members of her family back to health, and as a resul ...more
Phoua Yang
I enjoyed this book. It was written in a fiction type book format and was not too factual being a non-fiction in all. The book's format made it easier for me to keep up with the reading but the reason why I gave this book a four star instead of five stars was because I felt that it was in a way confusing. Maybe it is just me but I had a hard time trying to relate to Omakayas and her siblings. I don't know much about the culture so maybe that is what makes it harder for me to relate but other tha ...more
I am thankful for Louise Erdrich and her writing. I have enjoyed all of the books I've read by her, and The Birchbark House is no exception. This story is similar to the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, but it has much more depth and unforgettable characters, like Omakayas, or Little Frog. She is an Ojibwa girl, and the story is told from her perspective as she and her family live through a year in northern Wisconsin on Madeline Island. Omakayas was found as a very young child ("not yet two moons") ...more
In the spirit of the Little House books, but so much more honest. Perhaps because Erdrich is not telling her own story, she doesn't fall into the trap of being overly sentimental. Whereas the Little House books are all about independence and boot-strappiness, even to the point of playing down those moments when the Ingalls needed their neighbors, this book is all about the importance of community and connections with the world around. And, of course, the portrayal of Native Americans is positive ...more
Katie Dubik Schwarz
Lorelei is all about Native American anything right now as her first grade class is learning about Powhatan tribe. This book is about a different tribe but I know the author and this series of books (there are four) has received good reviews. So Lorelei read it, and I read it separately, so I could discuss any serious matter with her. And there is some serious matter in here!

The book covers one year/four seasons of one family's life. The main character, Little Frog, experiences incredible heart
Still wonderful over a decade since my first reading, The Birchbark House, written and illustrated by Louise Erdrich, is set in the mid 1800s on an island in Lake Superior. The story reflects traditional Ojibwa life through the eyes of a young girl, Omakayas. The book was a National Book Award nominee and the sequel is The Game of Silence. This would be an excellent choice for those seeking to learn or teaching about Native Americans.
Dan Holt
The Birchbark House follows a family of Anishinabe through one year, from summer to spring, through the eyes of an eight year old girl, Omakayas. Highlights are the illness that plagues the family in the winter, and the growing awareness of Omakayas' destiny. Bears also figure prominently in the story. Although geared toward a young audience, adults will find the imagery and POV character compelling.
OBOB 2014. My 9-year old son began reading this book and said it was boring, so I had low expectations. I was very pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the characters and respected how the author tackled tough issues like death, hunger, traditions, racism and family in a real, yet age appropriate way. It did take a little while to get into the plot, but it was a rewarding read once you were hooked.
Great book. It was one of those times I felt I was supposed to read this book at this time in my life right now and the book just resonated with me. I felt Erdrich did a great job depicting everyday life as well as sending life long messages left and right. 5th grade teacher read it out loud to her class during a Native American study. The students loved it.
Myah Quinn
In all honesty, I had a really hard time getting into this book, especially at the beginning of my reading. Because the text was so detailed and the story took a while to pick up, I just found it a bit hard to get in to at first. It reminded me so much of the Little House books! However, now that I have finished the book, I can say that I really enjoyed reading about Omakayas and the Ojibwe peoples. Erdrich does a great job of making this text into an authentic experience for readers, and I love ...more
Very touching story. Great character driven book, entertaining, touching, and great to read along with our study of this time in the history of America. Loved it!
Dec 19, 2014 Brittany added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grades 4 and Up
"An Ojibwa girl named Omakayas grows into an impressive young woman struggling to survive as a Native American in the 1800s. In the first of a cycle of novels partly based on her own family history, Erdrich offers a compelling and original saga, told from the point of view of a young Ojibwa girl on an island in Lake Superior in 1847," (Scholastic, 2014).

Genre: Historical Fiction

Lesson Idea:

Article: Ojibwe Lifestyles (1 for each pair):

Study Guid
For some reason this didn't quite hit my 'enjoy' button. I believe it was well-written, and it had a good mix of historical value, excitement, humor, family relationships, and coming-of-age inner story. I suspect the only kids who read it are those who get it read to them in school, though.
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community discussion outside of group... 8 42 May 03, 2012 02:47AM  
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Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renais ...more
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Other Books in the Series

The Birchbark House (4 books)
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“Where was I?"
"A different island," said old Tallow. Her voice was stern, but there was an ache in her look that Omakayas had never before seen. "An island called Spirit Island where everyone but you died of the itching sickness- you were the toughest one, the littlest one, and you survived them all."

"You were sent here so you could save the others," she said. "Because you'd had the sickness, you were strong enough to nurse them through it. They did a good thing when they took you in, and you saved them for their good act. Now the circle that began when I found you is complete.”
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