The Birchbark House
This is one of those children's books with a magical, tender quality that seizes the imagination. It is the first children's book, and the first in a ... Show synopsis This is one of those children's books with a magical, tender quality that seizes the imagination. It is the first children's book, and the first in a cycle of novels, by the distinguished novelist Louise Erdrich, who draws on her own family history to evoke the lives of Native Americans forced from their ancestral lands. It is the story of a little girl, Omakayas, who lives with her family on an island in Lake Superior in the 1840s. It is the story of a loving family of adults and children, and the tribulations and joys they experience, in the course of a year that sees the decimation of the tribe by the white man's disease, smallpox. Omakayas herself, with her affinity for animals - she has a pet crow, and makes friends with the bears - is a wonderful character who learns only at the end who she really is, and what her role in the tribe will be. The detail of daily life among the Ojibwa, so close to the land and to animals, is beautifully described and the characters are realized with a delightful warmth - not just Omakayas but the new baby she adores, her annoying little brother Pinch, the strange, tough, masculine Auntie, and the grandmother with her healing powers. It is an immensely charming and moving book on a subject that is always fascinating to young readers.