“Ethnic Books” – Birchbark House Series – Louise Erdrich
Yesterday I mentioned that I would start featuring good children’s literature featuring non-white protagonists. I’ve been reaching out to all of the mom’s and dad’s of pre-schoolers that I know for Early Childhood books, but I thought that I’d start out with some from my own area of expertise – Upper Elementary and Middle Grades.
The Birchbark House Series follows an Anishinabe (Ojibwe) family over generations from Madeline Island in Lake Superior, across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. The books have a fifth or sixth grade reading level and the interest level is Middle Grades.
The main character, Omakayas is a young girl. Erdrich does a fantastic job of describing the ordinary life of this Native family in the middle of the 19th Century, sharing the regular joys and challenges, as well as the unique challenges of the white settlers displacing the Native population in our area.
The tone of these books (even the illustrations) remind me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books. The books came from Ms. Erdrich and her mother starting to research their own family history.
The series is not done yet. Eventually the series will cover 100 years of the family history. Currently the books cover Omakayas’ childhood and in the fourth book, Chickadee the story centers around her twin sons.