Thursday, October 2, 2008 by Nikki in Niagara
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Little Frog Book 1
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, historical fiction
Award: WILLA Award
The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl.
Comments: My first thought about this book is that is is a Little House on the Prairie from the Indian perspective. The illustrations are even reminiscent of Garth Williams. However, it doesn't hold up to Wilder's books at all.
The book chronicles a year in the life a little Ojibwa girl. The book is divided into seasons and we follow her as her family and tribe lead their normal lives. Mostly there are no connections with the white man though her father trades with the white traders and voyageurs. Each chapter is episodic but no major plot runs through book or even within the chapters. This is not to say it was boring. There is a lot of description and a look into Native life that is interesting and enjoyable to read. Omakayas, whose name means Little Frog in English, is a fully developed character and the reader feels for her. The rest of the family members are only seen through her eyes and therefore do not feel fully developed.
Personally, I enjoyed the story. It is a quiet book, there is deep tragedy in the middle, but mostly it simply follows the life of a First Nations girl. It is most definitely a girl's book. I tried to read it aloud to my son as it was part of our school curriculum but he had no interest in it whatever. There are no boy characters, at least not fully developed ones, for him to connect with and nothing happened to hold his attention. So I stopped reading to him and finished the book on my own. The writing, full of description and light on dialogue is not conducive to reading aloud anyway. I think this book would be enjoyed by those interested in pre-white man Indian life and will especially appeal to girls ten and over.