by Louise Erdrich Book 4 of the Birchbark House Series

Chickadee is the eight-year-old son of Omakayas, the now-grown Objibwe who was a... read more

Chickadee is the eight-year-old son of Omakayas, the now-grown Objibwe who was a seven-year-old girl in Louise Erdrich’s novel The Birchbark House (HarperCollins, 1999). Chickadee and his twin, Makoons, live with their family away from white settlements and the danger they bring of disease, following the rhythm of the natural world like their mother did as a child. But when Chickadee and Makoons anger a bitter, older Native man with a practical joke, the man’s visiting adult sons kidnap Chickadee, planning to make him their servant. These two, Batiste and Babiche, are both mildly menacing and a source of comic relief (they aren’t very bright) as they carry Chickadee away from the woods and the family he’s known all his life, to the northern Plains. While Chickadee looks for ways to escape his buffoonish but still-threatening captors, his extended family is following his trail, anxious, worried, and determined to get their beloved boy back. Chickadee finally gets away, then endures an encounter with well-meaning but misguided missionaries, struggles with aching hunger, and finds relief with the help of a chickadee before finally stumbling upon a band of Métis traders that includes his Uncle Quill, who married a Métis woman. Meanwhile, his family is growing more and more worried, not only about Chickadee, but about Makoons, who is pining for his brother and becomes ill. Erdrich’s writing is pitch-perfect throughout a story that is full of charm, humor, and edge-of-your seat moments while revealing difficult and important truths. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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