Review: The Birchbark House

July 29, 2011

Erdrich, L. (2002). The birchbark house. New York, NY: Hyperion. 256 p. 978-0786814541. $6.99. Gr. 5-8.

The Birchbark House presents a year in the life of 7-year-old Omakayas and her Ojibwa family in 1847. From foraging for food for the long winter to making maple candy during the spring, Omakayas, her family, and her people suffer great hardships, but also find great successes. Erdirch is a great writer, with the ability to bring magic and wonder to a sometimes very grim story. Her background helps give the story credibility and authenticity. This would make a great alternative to the Little House on the Prairie series, as it is set under similar circumstances, but with a fresh outlook. Some readers may find the text a bit dry, however, yearning for the stories of Omakayas’s elders, instead of the sometimes tedious day to day minutiae of Omakayas’s life. Even for those not particularly invested in the story, Erdrich does write some strong moments throughout.

Additional Thoughts:

I was totally bored during this book. I hated pretty much every minute of it. If I hadn’t had to read it for a class, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. But there is also the question of whether it just wasn’t the book for me. Those into character-driven historical fiction will probably really like it.

This book is lauded for its authenticity. This isn’t something I can speak to, but I have become a fan of Debbie Reese’s blog, and she seems to appreciate it. Instead of similar titles I thought I would direct you to her list of best books for middle school readers.


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