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The Birchbark House (Birchbark House #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,000 Ratings  ·  765 Reviews
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 f ...more
Paperback, 244 pages
Published May 13th 2002 by Disney-Hyperion (first published 1999)
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Chanel idk it is crazy thought

Community Reviews

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Aug 12, 2016 added it
Shelves: read-in-2016
The stark differences between actual self-sufficient people and "Little House" self-sufficient is noteworthy, as are the roles women played.

Absolutely necessary reading alongside the Wilder books. And, perhaps, far more interesting.
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 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 i
Abby Johnson
Why did it take me so long to pick up this book?!

It's the story of Omakayas, an Ojibwe girl growing up in the mid-1800s. The book is loosely plotted and takes you through a year in her life. I especially liked the bits that explain how Omakayas's community does things like make their houses, create their food cache, etc. In that way, it's very like Little House on the Prairie and kids who are interested in How They Did Things Way Back Then will eat this up for sure.

The story has more emotion t
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melody by: A Bevy of Burtons
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Peto
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memory-lane
Just read in the Horn Book magazine that a fifth title in this series (Birchbark House) is coming out. I read this one, the first one, aloud to a class years ago. I remember it began slowly, like some other reviewers note. I remember worrying that the class would mutiny, but they didn't. When we finished it, I prodded them to disparage it but they defended the book heatedly. (The class was all girls. Maybe boys would feel differently…?)
Book Concierge
Book on CD narrated by Nicolle Littrell

What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for the pioneer families in 19th century plains states, Erdrich has done for the Native Americans in this same time period.

Omakayas is a seven-year-old Ojibwa girl living in Michigan. She is the sole survivor of a small pox epidemic when she’s taken into another family as an infant. Tallow is a strong matriarch and Omakayas (also called Little Frog), thrives in the community on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island, also known as th
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
Feb 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Elliott  Austin
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Omakayas, is a seven year old Ojibwa girl and we follow her and her adopted family for four seasons in 1847 and this includes a smallpox outbreak, which decimated the tribe. This is a wonderful day to day, look at Native Americans living on an island in Lake Superior and it is fun to follow Omakayas on her various adventures, along with her pet crow Andeg. This is Erdrich's first young reader novel and a perfect companion to the Little House books.
Omakayas, the protagonist of The Birchbark House, is a seven-year-old Native American girl of the Ojibwa tribe. Since the story is set on an island in Lake Superior in 1847 and mostly consists of a detailed account of the traditional Ojibwa life, it serves as a counter narrative to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series.

However, I wish I liked The Birchbark House more. The first two-thirds of the story were slow-paced and rather dull, and Louise Erdrich’s writing seemed a little bit too chil
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children, read-aloud
This book is the perfect companion to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. After reading
the first two Wilder novels with my 5 year old, it was obvious that Native American experiences were underrepresented. To my chagrin, my son was even a little scared of the Indians in those books. Erdrich's first novel for young people, written in the early 21st century, parallels Wilder's stories in many ways. Just as with Wilder, Erdrich provides historical information on survival and family dynamics
Amanda H
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex (not a dude) Baugh
The Birchbark House begins with a rather grim prologue that describes a baby girl crawling around the bodies of her family and crying while a group of men stand watching her on the shoreline of a small Lake Superior island. Knowing sickness has claimed the lives of everyone on the island except this little girl, the men get back into their canoes and leave, afraid and sure the baby will soon die of the same sickness as her family. One of the men decides to tells his wife about the baby, sure tha ...more
After the message of pioneers fearing native Americans in Little House on the Prairie, I decided we needed to listen to a book told from the other side of the story. The author's father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American, so she grew up experiencing and hearing about her native American heritage. The Birchbark House is a fictional work which takes place slightly earlier in American history than the Little House series when native Americans were still largely ab ...more
Chris  Ibert
Nov 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
I heard this described as Little House on the Prairie with the Ojibwe and that is completely accurate. She takes you through the seasons of the year and describes the work done and food hunted and gathered and grown in each season. The illustrations are in the same pen and ink line style. Omakayas's parents are just as loving, strong, brave, and infallible as Ma and Pa. Even the way she tells the anecdotes of the family in little episodes is the same. But it's also the same in that you get compl ...more
Benjamin Thomas
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Tardy to the party on this one but better late than never! This book comes up a lot in discussions of the Little House books as a readalike or read-instead-of, and it definitely appealed to me in that same way, that same seems-like-it-should-be-sort-of-boring old timey historical daily routine stuff. But since this is set in an Ojibwa village it's more new-to-me information, and I loved Omakayas' reflectiveness and honesty as a narrator. Erdrich's illustrations were lovely as well.

*Disclaimer, I
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
This had a lot of beautiful description but also plenty of character development and action. I enjoyed this story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, and her (adoptive) family. I love the parts with the bear cubs.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful children's book. One I think every classroom in the United States should have. It takes us through one year in the life of a 7-year-old Ojibiwa girl named Omakayas. How they lived, foraged for food, some of their beliefs and spiritual life, their relationships. It is beautifully written and shares the humor and deep sadness that life must have had back then.

I love that the author researched and wrote this story after learning about one of her early ancestors in the tribe.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
Alright, this was pretty cool! I can see why it gets compared to Wilder's Little House series. The writing style is even similar and main character's voice is pretty similar as well. After that, it diverges quite a bit. I wonder if Erdrich chose to focus on a middle character and that writing style to sort of mirror Little House?

Overall though, this is a series you don't have to feel a bit culturally insensitive for reading. As a child, I read Little House and thought that the native references
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
What a lovely book! I have already recommended it to three people that I thought would enjoy the historical aspects of it, and I look forward to including it on recommended reading lists in the future. It's a wonderful #ownvoices book, and it's the first in a series! I love the way the language pays homage to the oral tradition, evoking the feelings I associate with talented storytellers. The characters become a part of your heart, and I look forward to setting some time aside to finishing the s ...more
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-american
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
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bedtime-books
This book follows a year in the life of Omakayas, a 7-year-old Ojibwe girl living in about 1847 on what is now known as Madeline Island in Wisconsin. Omakayas is a pleasure of a character, and I particularly loved seeing her rich and varied sibling relationships unfurl: beautiful and haughty big sister Angeline, tedious and naughty little brother Pinch, and beloved baby Neewo.

I adored the Little House books as a child for the window they provided into a long-ago time, but re-reading them as an
Jennifer Peterson
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Erdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House. New York: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 2002. Print.

Long-Range Novel Unit Plan Text:

I thoroughly enjoyed The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. It conveyed a powerful message about how Native American's lived and how white travelers affected their lives. It was powerful but appropriate for the fourth-grade level it is aimed for. I thought it was well worth the read.

1. What does Omakayas stand for and why did she get this name? - Determine the m
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,
Jenna (JenTheLibrarian)
This was a solid middle grade read, but it didn't blow my mind. This is not so much a plot driven novel, or even a character driven novel really, but a setting driven story if that makes sense. It tells of this family's life in a year's span of time, while showing how Omakayas and her family's culture was so connected to nature and animals. I definitely learned a lot. The ending was so sweet! Also, our protagonist was smart and determined, which was great to see in a 7 year old girl. We get to s ...more
Jamie Leslie
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this for a class. This review is written after class discussion of this book.

This is the story of one year in a girl’s life. This I find interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it makes you feel as if you are getting a window into Omakayas’s everyday life. At times, this got a little boring due to the fact that there was no great adventure or sort of quest that must take place. While there were some tenser moments in the book, this set up reinforces a sense of normalcy. You are only g
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Play Book Tag: The Birchbark House / Louise Erdrich - 4**** 2 8 Dec 31, 2017 09:55AM  
community discussion outside of group... 9 54 Dec 02, 2017 11:40AM  
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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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“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.”
More quotes…