The game of silence

Louise Erdrich

Book - 2005

Nine-year-old Omakayas, of the Ojibwa tribe, moves west with her family in 1849.

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New York : HarperCollins 2005.
Main Author
Louise Erdrich (-)
1st ed
Item Description
Sequel to The Birchbark House
Physical Description
xii, 256 p. : ill
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. Like its predecessor The Birchbark House (1999), this long-awaited sequel is framed by catastrophe, but the core of the story, which is set in 1850, is white settlers' threats to the traditional Ojibwe way of life. Omakayas is now nine and living at her beautiful island home in Lake Superior. But whites want Ojibwe off the island: Where will they go? In addition to an abundance of details about life through the seasons, Erdrich deals with the wider meaning of family and Omakayas' coming-of-age on a vision quest. Just on the edge of the child's daily life and coming ever closer are the whites--among them, a Catholic soul-stealer priest and a friendly teacher who helps the children learn to read and write both Ojibwe and English so that they can confront cheating white agents. Readers familiar with the first book will welcome the return of several richly drawn nonreverential characters, including Omakayas' pesky brother, her irritable mom, and her bold, tough mentor, Old Tallow. As Erdrich said in the Booklist Story Behind the Story, Little House on the Lake BKL Ap 1 99, about The Birchbark House, her research into her ancestors revealed the horrifying history and also a culture rich, funny, and warm. In this heartrending novel the sense of what was lost is overwhelming. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This sequel to The Birchbark House continues the saga of Omakayas, now "nine winters old," a member of the Ojibwe tribe who reside on an island in Lake Superior. The tranquility of the little village is threatened when word arrives that white leaders are going to force Omakayas's people farther west into enemy territory. While some men from the tribe-including Omakayas's father and Fishtail, her sister's special friend-travel in different directions to investigate the rumor, the rest of the villagers remain. They struggle to regain normalcy by returning to their routine of hunting, fishing, weaving and gathering. Erdrich once again shows what is was like to grow up Native American during the same time period about which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote. The unadorned narrative, sprinkled with ancient legends, clearly expresses not only the traditions and rituals of the Ojibwe but also their values and religious beliefs. Erdrich's pencil drawings (somewhat reminiscent of the style of Garth Williams's illustrations for the Little House series) capture the mood and spirit of such characters as Pinch, Omakayas's mischievous little brother and noble Old Tallow, who gives Omakayas a precious gift. Like its prequel, this meticulously researched novel offers an even balance of joyful and sorrowful moments while conveying a perspective of America's past that is rarely found in history books. Ages 8-12. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Omakayas's tale, begun in The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), continues in this book. Older and more insightful, Omakayas begins to understand the elements of life more fully as she accepts her gift of telling dreams. Changes are coming to the Ojibwa people and she struggles to deal with all that she is experiencing and her dreams foretell. Her sister falls in love with a warrior, strange and lost members of her tribe come to rely on her, and her people are threatened with certain eviction from their homes and food supply. But traditions are strong, and after Omakayas is sent off into nature to face the spirits and her dreams, she learns to accept the fate of her people and comes to see it as an adventure, "the next life they would live together on this earth." Although the story is set on an island in Lake Superior in 1850, readers will identify with the everyday activities of the Ojibwa, from snowball fights to fishing excursions, providing a parallel to their own lives while encouraging an appreciation for one that is very different. The action is somewhat slow, but Erdrich's captivating tale of four seasons portrays a deep appreciation of our environment, our history, and our Native American sisters and brothers.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) Nine-year-old Omakayas; her pet crow, Andeg; and the rest of her family have returned to their summer home, but things are changing. In this sequel to The Birchbark House (rev. 5/99), Erdrich deftly revisits the events of the previous book, including the devastating death of Omakayas's baby brother, Neewo, in the smallpox outbreak that took so many villagers' lives. And now a new threat has come: another group of Ojibwe, starving and barely alive, arrive with news of the encroaching chimookomanag -- white people. A removal order from the U.S. president means that the Ojibwe will have to move west, away from the land they love. While a small advance party sets off to gather information, the villagers adjust to the newcomers and prepare for the future. Using some of the conventions from the first installment, Erdrich brings her characters through the seasons, starting in summer. Omakayas is maturing with each passing month, and her grandmother, who has always taken a special interest in her granddaughter's gifts, gently pushes Omakayas toward adulthood. On one tense night, when she has a powerful dream that saves her father's life, Omakayas finally starts to understand her destiny and her gifts. Erdrich's own gifts are many, and here she has given readers another tale full of rich details of 1850s Ojibwe life, complicated supporting characters, and all the joys and challenges of a girl becoming a woman. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Readers who loved the ways of Omakayas and her family in The Birchbark House (1999) have ample reason to rejoice in this beautifully constructed sequel. On Madeline Island in Lake Superior at the midpoint of the 19th century, Omakayas lives the turning of an entire year. In summer, a starving remnant of relatives are taken in and cared for; in the fall, stores are laid up and the group returns to their cabins; winter comes with storytelling, Old Tallow's coat of many furs, and Omakayas's sister Angeline beading a vest for the man she loves. In spring, Omakayas goes on her own spirit quest and sees her future clear. Omakayas's relationships with her prickly brother Pinch, the white child she calls Break-Apart Girl and Two Strike, who scorns women's work, allow for emotional resonance. She learns not only from the hands of her grandmother, mother and Old Tallow, but by her own sharp observation and practice. Eager readers beguiled by her sturdy and engaging person will scarcely notice that they have absorbed great draughts of Ojibwe culture, habits and language. It's hard not to weep when white settlers drive the Ojibwe west, and hard not to hope for what comes next for this radiant nine-year-old. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The Game of Silence Chapter One The Raggedy Ones When they were close enough to touch bottom with their paddles, the people poured out of the nearly swamped canoes. The grown-ups held little ones and the little ones held even smaller ones. There were so many people jammed into each boat that it was a wonder they had made it across. The grown-ups, the ones who wore clothes, bunched around the young. A murmur of pity started among the people who had gathered on shore when they heard Omakayas's shout, for the children had no clothing at all, they were naked. In a bony, hungry, anxious group, the people from the boats waded ashore. They looked at the ground, fearfully and in shame. They were like skinny herons with long poles for legs and clothes like drooping feathers. Only their leader, a tall old man wearing a turban of worn cloth, walked with a proud step and held his head up as a leader should. He stood calmly, waiting for his people to assemble. When everyone was ashore and a crowd was gathered expectantly, he raised his thin hand and commanded silence with his eyes. Everyone's attention was directed to him as he spoke. "Brothers and sisters, we are glad to see you! Daga, please open your hearts to us! We have come from far away." He hardly needed to urge kindness. Immediately, families greeted cousins, old friends, lost relatives, those they hadn't seen in years. Fishtail, a close friend of Omakayas's father, clasped the old chief in his arms. The dignified chief's name was Miskobines, Red Thunder, and he was Fishtail's uncle. Blankets were soon draping bare shoulders, and the pitiful naked children were covered, too, with all of the extra clothing that the people could find. Food was thrust into the hungry people's hands-strips of dried fish and bannock bread, maple sugar and fresh boiled meat. The raggedy visitors tried to contain their hunger, but most fell upon the food and ate wolfishly. One by one, family by family, the poor ones were taken to people's homes. In no time, the jeemaanan were pulled far up on the beach and the men were examining the frayed seams and fragile, torn stitching of spruce that held the birchbark to the cedar frames. Omakayas saw her grandmother, her sister, and her mother, each leading a child. Her mother's eyes were wide-set and staring with anger, and she muttered explosive words underneath her breath. That was only her way of showing how deeply she was affected; still, Omakayas steered clear. Her brother, Pinch, was followed by a tall skinny boy hastily wrapped in a blanket. He was the son of the leader, Miskobines, and he was clearly struggling to look dignified. The boy looked back in exhaustion, as if wishing for a place to sit and rest. But seeing Omakayas, he flushed angrily and mustered strength to stagger on ahead. Omakayas turned her attention to a woman who trailed them all. One child clutched her ragged skirt. She carried another terribly thin child on a hip. In the other arm she clutched a baby. The tiny bundle in her arms made no movement and seemed limp, too weak to cry. The memory of her poor baby brother, Neewo, shortened Omakayas's breath. She jumped after the two, leaving the intrigue of the story of their arrival for later, as well as the angry boy's troubling gaze. Eagerly, she approached the woman and asked if she could carry the baby. The woman handed over the little bundle with a tired sigh. She was so poor that she did not have a cradle board for the baby, or a warm skin bag lined with rabbit fur and moss, or even a trade blanket or piece of cloth from the trader's store. For a covering, she had only a tiny piece of deerskin wrapped into a rough bag. Even Omakayas's dolls had better clothing and better care. Omakayas cuddled the small thing close. The baby inside the bag was bare and smelled like he needed a change of the cattail fluff that served as his diaper. Omakayas didn't mind. She carried the baby boy with a need and happiness that the woman, so relieved to hand the baby over, could not have guessed at. Having lost her own brother, Omakayas took comfort in this baby's tiny weight and light breath. She would protect him, she promised as they walked. She would keep him company and give him all the love she had stored up but could no longer give to her little brother Neewo. The baby peered watchfully into her eyes. Though tiny and helpless, he seemed determined to live. With a sigh he rooted for milk, for something, anything. Anxiously, Omakayas hurried toward the camp. The angry boy with the long stick legs and frowning face sat next to Pinch by the fire. He glared up when Omakayas entered the clearing, but then his whole attention returned to the bowl of stew in his hands. He stared into it, tense as an animal. He tried without success to keep from gulping the stew too fast. His hands shook so hard that he nearly dropped the bowl at one point, but with a furious groan he righted himself and attained a forced calm. Straining to control his hunger, he lifted the bowl to his lips and took a normal portion of meat between his teeth. Chewed. Closed his eyes. When Omakayas saw from beneath one half-shut eyelid the gleam of desperation, she looked away. Not fast enough. "What are you staring at?" the boy growled. "Nothing." "Don't even bother with her," said Pinch, delighted to sense an ally with whom he might be able to torment his sister. "She's always staring at people. She's a homely owl!" "Weweni gagigidoon," said Angeline, throwing an acorn that hit Pinch square on the forehead. She told her brother to speak with care, then commanded him, "Booni'aa, leave her alone!" The Game of Silence . Copyright © by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.