The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich
The Game of Silence is the second book in the the Birchbark series by Louise Erdrich. It has won numerous awards, including the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the ALA Notable Children’s Book Award. The story picks up not too long after The Birchbark House ended, and now Omakayas’s family has to deal with a more serious threat: the loss of their home.
The book opens with Omakayas standing on the shore of her home, an island in Lake Superior. In the far distance, she sees strange people approaching. Once they arrive, her family finds that these people are Anishinabeg people too. (We call them the Ojibwe or Chippewa people now.) They are haggard, hungry, and some of them have lost members of their family. Among them is a baby boy who has lost his parents, and now he becomes Omakayas’s new baby brother.
These people are refugees who have been pushed out of their homes by the chimookomanag, or white people, and as the story unfolds, Omakayas’s family realizes that they, too, must leave their homes.
However, The Game of Silence is also about a young girl growing up, dealing with a pesky younger brother, and learning what her talents are and how she can use them to help others. She is learning about the importance of her community and her place in it. As always, Louise Erdrich’s great sense of humor comes through, and her prose is magnificent.
I highly recommend this series to readers both young and old. My two boys, ages eight and eleven, told me that they like the story of Omakayas, and they especially love the funny parts.