The Porcupine Year

the porcupine yearThe third book of The Birchbark House series is titled The Porcupine Year. It is during this year that Omakayas is twelve years old, and her family is traveling. They had been forced to leave their island home in the previous book in the series, The Game of Silence, and they are searching for a new place to settle.

Omakayas continue to learn from the land and from the spirits around her throughout this year of travel. She continues to learn and grow, as do those around her. Her whole family is back, and readers get to see how each member of the family is changing during this year.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Omakayas and Pinch are growing up. Pinch even gets a new, more adult name during this book! By the end of this book, Omakayas is even beginning to have a few romantic feelings. She’s right at the border between childhood and womanhood, and this shows as she often has childish feelings, but occasionally more grown-up ones as well.

I noticed that we finally get to hear Old Tallow’s backstory. We learn how she became the woman she is, and it’s a hard read. If you have sensitive children, you may want to pre-read this section (near the end) of the story to see if it’s appropriate for your child.

I wondered . . .

I wondered about Zahzed and Zahn. I wondered what ended up happening to them, and I wondered how they were changed by their time with Omakayas’s family.

I wondered if the family ever finds out what happens to the thieves or recovers what is stolen.

I wonder if the family is settled for good. From reading books like An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, I know that each time the tribes move, the United States’ settlers continue to push them further west. Will the next book see them pushed even further away from home?

It reminded me of . . .

At one point Omakayas’s family is starving to death, and this reminded me strongly of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. Luckily, neither family ends up starving to death, but their experiences of hunger and running out of food are the same.

Because Emalee and I just finished reading My Side of the Mountain, I could not help but compare the wilderness descriptions in each book. There are some real similarities in the way they discover and prepare food and shelter in the books.

Over all, this one was a really good book in this series. We really liked it and have already begun reading the fourth book, Chickadee.


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