Nothing prickly about The Porcupine Year

January 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich; published by HarperCollins, New York; 2008.

I didn’t realize that this is a sequel to two other books when I chose to read it.  Without reading the preceding books, I was able to garner enough information from the prologue to follow the story.  The Porcupine Year could stand on its own.  It is the engrossing tale of Omakayas, a twelve year old Ojibwe whose family was displaced from their Lake Superior home.  In 1852, they were forced to flee across Minnesota to find a new home among other Native Americans.

Even in this historical setting, this is truly the story of a young girl coming of age—growing from a playful child to new woman over the course of a year.  She suffers loss, finds new love, and struggles with her family.  I was swept away by the rhythm of the prose.  I felt like I was eavesdropping on a family in another world.  I understand why Erdrich’s books about Omakaya have been recognized with honors and awards (the second book won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction).

I would pair this book with other stories of Native American children, including The Beaded Moccasins by Lynda Durrant (historical fiction about Mary Campbell), especially to support the upper elementary curriculum.

In fact, I did add this to a pathfinder for Ohio Native Americans for fourth graders as part of my practicum project.

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Entry filed under: ALSC Notable Winner, Historical Fiction. Tags: , , , .

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