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The Birchbark House
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Gr 5-8-Omakayas's tale, begun in The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), continues in this book. Older and more insightful, Omakayas begins to understand the elements of life more fully as she accepts her gift of telling dreams. Changes are coming to the Ojibwa people and she struggles to deal with all that she is experiencing and her dreams foretell. Her sister falls in love with a warrior, strange and lost members of her tribe come to rely on her, and her people are threatened with certain eviction from their homes and food supply. But traditions are strong, and after Omakayas is sent off into nature to face the spirits and her dreams, she learns to accept the fate of her people and comes to see it as an adventure, "the next life they would live together on this earth." Although the story is set on an island in Lake Superior in 1850, readers will identify with the everyday activities of the Ojibwa, from snowball fights to fishing excursions, providing a parallel to their own lives while encouraging an appreciation for one that is very different. The action is somewhat slow, but Erdrich's captivating tale of four seasons portrays a deep appreciation of our environment, our history, and our Native American sisters and brothers.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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