The Porcupine Year


the_porcupine_year.jpgIn this riveting continuation of the story of Omakayas, “little frog”, Louise Erdrich weaves a readable, yet very complex story about a girl’s spiritual and physical coming of age. In this imaginative and culturally-authentic young adult novel, Erdrich introduces us to Omakayas and her Ojibwe elders who wisely guide her toward realization of her own powers. Set against the harsh physical and political landscape of 1852, Omakayas and her family travel westward from Madeline Island toward Rainy Lake. In their year-long journey, Omakayas, her younger brother Quill, and other family members face hunger, physical dangers, and enemies. They survive because they remain strong and true to their Ojibwe teachings. Omakayas comes to trust her dreams and she learns herbal medicine in her journey to become a medicine woman; Quill is captured by the Dakota, matures through this tribulation and also grows toward manhood. Through these and other harrowing experiences, they learn to rely on their spiritual helpers; the book’s title comes from Quill’s helper, the Porcupine. The Porcupine Year is rich in detail and instructional in content. Readers, children, parents and educators will find it an inspiring template for Ojibwe cultural values. Like the earlier books about Omakayas, The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence, this story will capture your heart and your imagination. – Review by Pauline Danforth