Louise Erdrich. Harper, 2012. (review copy for the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction list). This is the fourth book in Erdrich's Birchbark House series. I have enjoyed the entire series, including Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, and The Porcupine Year. The stories cover 100 years in the life of an Ojibwe family living in Minnesota in the 19th century. In Chickadee we meet twin boys who are living with their family by the Lake of the Woods (north of St. Paul). The opening line draws us in: "The year was 1866, and the girl whose first step was a hop, Omakaya, sometimes skipped as she chased after her children." This is a family bursting with strength, energy, talent, passion and fierce loyalty. When Chickadee gets kidnapped by some despicable traiders who force him to cook and eat a truly nasty mouse stew, the entire family takes to the road to chase them down and recover him. The text is full of descriptive detail on the methods and adventures of hunting and growing food, building shelters, and celebrating the changing seasons as well as an animated interplay of well-drawn characters. Maps and line drawings of tools, home impliments, birds, animals and people inhabit the pages, making the story come alive. Readers who enjoy Little House on the Pairie or My Side of the Mountain will love this book. It is all the better because it open the world of the Ojibwe to us in a touching, endearing and impressive story that will not be forgotten. Chickadee's family has invested him with a deep well of strength, love, creativity and wit that ensures his survival whatever happens. There are so many lessons to be learned from his story! I'd absolutely love to be part of a middle grade reading club discussing this book. Please let me know if you get the chance to share it with the children in your life!
Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and owns a bookstore which I would love to visit. Her books have been awarded the National Book Award finalists, a Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, a Pulitzer Prize, and many other awards. Read more about her and her books on Goodreads.
Ms. Yingling hosts a World Wednesday round up each week, where we can discover more great books from cultures around the world. Check it out!