Friday, December 3

Audiobook Review: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Author:  Sarah MacLean
Narrator: Nicolle Littrell
Title: The Birchbark House
(Birchbark House #1)
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Fiction 
Format: Audiobook
Published: July 21st 1999
Where I got It: Audible 

Nineteenth-century American pioneer life was introduced to thousands of young readers by Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books. With The Birchbark House, award-winning author Louise Erdrich's first novel for young readers, this same slice of history is seen through the eyes of the spirited, 7-year-old Ojibwa girl Omakayas, or Little Frog, so named because her first step was a hop. The sole survivor of a smallpox epidemic on Spirit Island, Omakayas, then only a baby girl, was rescued by a fearless woman named Tallow and welcomed into an Ojibwa family on Lake Superior's Madeline Island, the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. We follow Omakayas and her adopted family through a cycle of four seasons in 1847, including the winter, when a historically documented outbreak of smallpox overtook the island.

Readers will be riveted by the daily life of this Native American family, in which tanning moose hides, picking berries, and scaring crows from the cornfield are as commonplace as encounters with bear cubs and fireside ghost stories.

You know what they more of? Native American stories in audible. There are slim pickings. Heck, just Native American books overall. There are so many tales and stories that everyone would love. But yes - I picked this one up because it sounded...familiar. I'm not sure if I read it back in my youth, but it just called to me.

The story follows a spirited Ojibwa girl named Omakayas, or Little Frog. She was the sole survivor of a smallpox epidemic on Spirit Island. She was just a baby left alone when she was rescued by a fearless woman named Tallow and welcomed into a family on Madeline Island. We follow her journey years later when she is 7 and her adopted family through the cycle of four seasons in 1847. That winter was when an outbreak of smallpox overtook the island and will change Omakayas' life forever. 

This was for sure a YA book. You could tell in the writing style. We see things mainly in Little Frog's POV. Sometimes it would switch over to her mother's or brother's or even Tallow. So majority of the time we are getting the story from a 7/8 year old so it is of course YA feeling...which was perfect for this story. 

Can I just say I loved Tallow? She was a hardy woman who didn't take anyone's crap even her previous hubbies. Good on her. She is brave and grumpy. Love her. 

Ugh that brother of Little Frog's needed a swift kick in the romp. Pinch was it? He was annoying.

Loved the crow too. He was adorable. Honestly...I loved all the animals. I loved Little Frog's connection with them. 

I am really, really glad the book didn't 100% focus on the smallpox break-out during the winter. We got to see normal life for them during the other seasons. I feel like it really showed the impact of the outbreak and how it made winter harder to survive since the majority of the village was down for the count either sick or dead. It made it that much heart-breaking because you don't know who is going to live or die. 

Even with the sadness there is hope and happiness. The ending was great. No cliffies so you could just read book 1. I am scared to see what is next for her and her family. I feel like there will be more heartbreak. I feel like she is going to forced to meet the white folk. Ugh. I'm sure they are around the corner ready to mess everything they do. 

The narrator was good. I liked her voices. I also really liked the added sounds at certain parts. It seemed like they had it at the beginning, end, and when a season ended. It just added to the charm of the narration. 

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this story. I liked our characters for the most part hahaha (looking at you annoying little Pinch). I loved watching this family and seeing them get through the year. The winter section will pull at the heart strings. So will Spring...but there is hope. I do feel like this is good for a middle schooler to read. If they don't want to read it, have them do the audio. I really enjoyed this audio version. I'll give this 4 stars.  

- #81 for Audiobook challenge


Jen Twimom said...

Glad you enjoyed this one. I read a Native American story back when I first started blogging, but I don't think I have since. Boo on me.

Blodeuedd said...

Oh no, what will happen to her? Damn white people and missionaries

Carole Rae said...

Jen, they are hard to find!

B, so far okay....but I am scared for the next books.

Sophia Rose said...

Neat to catch a regional tribe story. I'll have to see if the library has it. I read a book earlier this fall about 50 mini bios of Native Americans and it was pretty cool, but yes, need more fictional stories, too.

Carole Rae said...

Yesss we need more!