Chapter Books – Porcupine Year

Now in the third book about her life, Omakayas has grown from a little girl to one on the verge of womanhood. Her life has changed in many ways: she no longer lives in her beloved homeland, but has been forced to move away by the white settlers. She and her family are moving north. During her often-troubled “Porcupine Year” – named after her brother’s pet – she experiences both tragedy and the first stirrings of love.

Omakayas is part of the Ojibwe in the late 1800’s. Her books have sometimes been called the Native American answer to the Little House books. Both are set in the West during a time of much movement and settlement, but the experiences are very different. Omakayas is still upset about having to leave her original home lands, but the journey towards family that has already moved north is even more fraught with peril than the family had anticipated. A raid by an enemy tribe, the betrayal of a trusted family member that leads to near-starvation, and the loss of a beloved relative all put a damper on the year. Yet at the same time are the joys of new womanhood, the beautiful music Animikiins plays for her on his flute, and the delight of her baby brother.

This was a solidly good book, and I will be recommending it to many patrons. That being said, for some reason, it just didn’t grab me emotionally. I was interested in the story, and always willing to keep reading, but I also didn’t feel intimately connected to the characters; their perils left me cold. That may say more about me than it does about the book, though. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, or is curious about the flip side of the settlement of the West, when the Native American inhabitants were pushed off their land, will enjoy this book immensely.

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