Thursday, July 10, 2008


Today, Elizabeth Bird (a blogger at School Library Journal), posted her review of Louise Erdrich's The Porcupine Year. It is Erdrich's third book in a series that began with The Birchbark House.

Bird clearly loves the book. I don't know if she posts a live countdown for every book she reviews, but there is one there for the moment when The Porcupine Year hits the shelves on September 2nd.

Earlier this year I listened to Erdrich read from her new novel, The Plague of Doves. It came out in April and is in its third printing. The story she tells is based on the lynching of three American Indians in 1897 in North Dakota. At the 2006 New Yorker Festival she read aloud the story "The Plague of Doves" that would become the novel. If you want to hear that reading, click here.

I bring up her reading here because today, months after I heard her read, those voices are still with me. A gifted writer, she is also an outstanding reader. I'd love to hear her read aloud The Porcupine Year! Like Elizabeth, I was taken with the dialog.

And, as with her first book, Erdrich gives us an honest portrayal of peoples in conflict. In her books, there is none of the savage melodrama that Wilder uses in her series. The world might be a better place if we replaced every copy of Wilder's Little House on the Prairie with Erdrich's series. In Erdrich, children see human and humane, fully developed Native characters whose culture is in conflict with those who want what they have. Thoughtful and thought-provoking.


Anonymous said...

In the interest of complete and utter honesty, I cannot take credit for the countdown. Harper Collins offer it as a blog option on some of their bigger books. I just hadn't found one worthy of the feature until now. Thanks for linking to me!

Anonymous said...

I loved the other books - can't wait to see this one. I have a basic question, though. If the book isn't out yet - how did you get to read it?!?!

- Kara

Debbie Reese said...

Publishing houses send review copies out to review journals like SLJ. When BIRCHBARK came out, I think I asked to be placed on the distribution list for review copies of the sequels. I think they said ok (to put me on the list) because of my research and teaching in American Indian Studies/children's lit.

Allison said...

I am a teacher education student at the Univ. of Wisconsin who was in a fourth-grade classroom this semester. As part of their study of the Native Americans of Wisconsin, they listened and followed along to The Birchbark House on tape. The children loved it so much they would beg to keep reading it. Personally, I have read the whole series as part of my Social Studies methods class and because I wanted to know what the children were reading. I loved the books! I'm still in the process of learning how to teach Native culture and history in the classroom, but I wanted to say that as a future teacher, I do care. I was at the UW School of Education's "American Indians in Children's Literature" presentation, and I found it very helpful. I hope to include many of those books in my own classroom someday. I just wanted to say thank you. The work that you do makes my job just a little easier.