Friday, January 22, 2016

Classics Review: The Birchbark House

Title: The Birchbark House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Length: 239 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 3-7

Three adjectives that describe this book: slow, memorable, interesting

A book designed to transport you into the daily life of an Ojibwa family in the mid 1800s. Not only does The Birchbark House meet this goal, but it does so quite vividly. This is not a plot-driven novel, but instead all about the characters and setting. It follows a family over the course of one year, so we experience all that it takes to survive in the Great Lakes region. The characters hunt, fish, and farm. They create clothing, spend time with friends, and celebrate with their neighbors. They build homes suited to each season, and must survive a challenging winter. They encounter changes brought by the white men, and make decisions about how to deal with these changes. This is a quiet story, but would be great for any middle grade reader who is interested in the lives of native peoples.

On a side note - As an adult reader, I kept sensing the clock ticking in the background, knowing that the story is set in 1847, and that the characters in this story would not continue the rhythms of life, as established by their ancestors, for much longer. It was a strange feeling to be the observer who knows more than the characters about their futures.
3.5 stars

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