Monday, January 7, 2013

Chickadee (Book Four of the Birchbark House Series)

written and illustrated by Louise Erdrich
HarperCollins | 2012
Get it here.

The heroine of the first three Birchbark House books (The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, and Porcupine Year), a Ojibwa girl named Omakayas, is back in this fourth installment, and her own twins are now eight years old. Chickadee and Makoons are the best of friends and good boys. After their father, Animikiins, kills a moose, the whole family celebrates together. But,  two evil men decide to steal Chickadee to make him their servant. What follows is an eventful adventure of how Chickadee is reunited with his family that flows from the woods of Minnesota to the Plains.

Anyone could easily read this book as a stand-alone, but it's richer if you've read the Birchbark House series in its entirety. And there are more books planned. Erdrich, who is also well known for her books for adults (Round House won the National Book Award this year), bases this series on her own family's history.

Many have made this comparison before, and I agree with it and will repeat it here: this series is much like the Little House on the Prairie series, but from the viewpoint of people indigenous to the United States who, rather than moving across the U.S., are instead trying to maintain their lifestyles even as others are encroaching upon their land. Far from heavy-handed, the stories present the lives of these native peoples with a grace and sensibility that will likely resonate with any reader. These stories are classic and shouldn't be missed.

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