Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Birchbark House

Title: The Birchbark House
Author: Louise Erdich

Topic: Native Nations, Westward Expansion
Grade Level: 4 (but reading at a 5th or 6th grade level)
Students: Many strong readers, just a few struggling or reluctant readers
Rating by: Anonymous

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board
(3) Can be used for a whole class read
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

A Comment from the Reviewer:
"This book ties in well to our study of Native Americans/Early Vermont History, even though it takes place in the Great Lakes region.  It is told from the Native American perspective, written by a Native author, and brings up many interesting discussions about the contact period - also about the impact of disease- a sometimes forgotten aspect of European impact."

Amazon's Product Description:   
"[In this] story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children's stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at 'them' as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family's history, wants to tell about 'us', from the inside. The Birchbark House establishes its own ground, in the vicinity of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books." --The New York Times Book Review

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to a Discussion Guide for Birchbark House
Link to the Birchbark House Non-Profit, an organization devoted to revitalizing indigenous languages, which was started by the author
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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