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The Birchbark House

(Birchbark House #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,760 ratings  ·  932 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, 256 pages
Published June 3rd 2002 by Hyperion Books for Children (first published 1999)
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3.95  · 
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 ·  5,760 ratings  ·  932 reviews


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Kelly
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
...more
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
...more
Emily
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this aloud with my 10 year old and asked her for her rating. She said the first half was a 4 star but the second half was only 1.5 stars.

I frequently see people recommending this book for very young children. I can't understand that. The writing is beautiful, and I enjoyed the story. But oh my goodness...it's so sad. I would NOT recommend this to a child younger than 10. My 10 year old found it devastating, hence the low rating.
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
...more
Melody
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…?)
Jessika
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
...more
Catherine
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
Madeleine (Top Shelf Text)
The Diverse Books Club has selected The Birchbark House for the theme of Indigenous Perspectives in November this year. I previewed this title during our selection process and loved it. I would recommend it for middle grade readers who enjoy historical fiction, and for those who are curious to learn more about indigenous cultures. Louise Erdrich is an own voices author -- meaning that she belongs to the tribe that she writes about, and her insights combined with her talented prose make for a gre ...more
nettebuecherkiste
Nordamerika im 19. Jahrhundert. Die kleine Omakayas lebt mit ihrer Familie auf einer kleinen Insel im Oberen See. Sie gehört dem Stamm der Anishininabeg an, oft auch Ojibwe genannt. Jeden Sommer zieht die Familie vom Dorf weg zu einer etwas entfernt gelegenen Stelle, wo sie ein Haus aus Birkenrinde erbauen. Es gibt viel zu tun und auch Omakayas hilft gerne mit, wenn sie nicht gerade Felle zur Vorbereitung der Lederherstellung abkratzen muss, denn das ist wirklich eine lästige Arbeit. Am liebsten ...more
Elliott  Austin
**7.0/10**
Dominic
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
...more
Mark
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.
Agnė
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
...more
Amy
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
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
Gina Mogen
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm glad I read it! It gave me some really great and important things to think about for myself and the Native American people.
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
Heather
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
Renata
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
...more
Jenny
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.
Brooke
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.
Hannah
I honestly have no recollection of this book and from my reading journal at the time (homework book), I am not entirely sure if I actually read it or not. Here’s what I wrote:

A good story through which the Native American culture during the Westward Expansion is accurately portrayed.

Conclusion: from what I have read about it, it is not a quest story


So if I read it, parts of it or just about it, I am not entirely sure, but I’ll mark it as read for filing purposes.

Alina Borger
The Birchbark House is the story of an Ojibwe family living through the seasons. The protagonist, Omakayas, is delightful--as is her story of familial love, mother bears, and friendly Adeg, her pet crow.

Told with the same childlike voice and POV as the Little House books but from an indigenous person's point of view, this book is one for all children; it portrays the sovereignty and dignity of Omakayas's community as an "us" and white folks as the "them." That insider posture is rare enough in
...more
Katy
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A delightful and heartwarming story.
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
...more
Ellie
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
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community discussion outside of group... 10 59 Sep 06, 2018 11:18AM  
Play Book Tag: The Birchbark House / Louise Erdrich - 4**** 2 9 Dec 31, 2017 09:55AM  

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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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Birchbark House (5 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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