One of my favorite books is “The Birchbark House” written and illustrated by Louise Erdrich in 1999. This is the first book of five in the series.
The setting is the year 1847 on the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker in Lake Superior. The prologue opens on Spirit Island with fur traders discovering the island has been hit with smallpox. One lone survivor is found there, a baby girl. Because of the fear of infection, the fur traders leave the infant behind.
When the story begins, the main character Omakayas, an Indigenous Ojibwa girl, along with her grandmother Nokomis, her father DeyDey, her mother, her sister Angeline, and her brothers Pinch and baby Neewo live in the summer in a birchbark house. Another character in the story is Old Tallow, a strong, independent woman who can be intimidating. Old Tallow’s relationship with Omakayas runs through the spirit world.
Along the story line, Omakayas makes friends with an injured crow bird that she names Andeg and she finds herself being able to communicate with nature’s creatures. A smallpox infected trader enters the village and is cared for by villagers. When all of Omakayas family is infected except for her and her grandmother Nokomis, she is left to tend to their care. Because of this, Omakayas discovers she has the ability to heal people. Old Tallow shares a secret with Omakayas that completes many questions she has had of her life.
Although I have read this book four times, it still moves me to tears. If you are looking for a fantastic book with illustrations that are beautifully done, this could be the book for you.
Come on up to the Henning Library and let us help you find an amazing book to read. We are open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30-5:30 p.m.