Louise Erdrich to appear in Oak Park this fall
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:13AM
Fans of Louise Erdrich are eagerly awaiting her newest book, The Round House, due out this fall.
Local fans have even more reason for anticipation. Erdrich will deliver this year’s Barbara Ballinger Lecture Oct. 23 at Unity Temple. This free lecture, hosted by the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library, honors Ballinger’s 25-year term as the library’s director.
Now would be a good time to try out or, read more of, Erdrich’s work. She’s written 13 novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children’s books and a memoir of early motherhood. You have nothing to lose — titles may be borrowed from the library in print, audio or ebook format.
Much of Erdirch’s writing draws from the Ojibwe tribe she is part of, which leads to authentic and beautiful levels of detail. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. Most recently, The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Set in North Dakota, The Plague of Doves follows several generations of small-town white residents and Ojibwe living on a nearby reservation whose lives are affected by an unsolved murder. It’s the first in a planned trilogy to continue with The Round House. Join us Oct. 17 at the library for a discussion of The Plague of Doves.
Younger readers will find Erdrich’s Birchbark series appealing. The series, beginning with The Birchbark House and continuing with the upcoming Chickadee, follows young Omakayas and her family through life in the mid-1800s. Erdrich’s language is lyrical and Ojibwe words are seamlessly woven into context, bringing Omakayas’s world alive. Adventures such as run-ins with a bear family are mixed with the consequences of smallpox and are further balanced with the antics of a little brother and a pet crow. This is a part of history that often gets glossed over or ignored and Erdrich has done a wonderful job of creating stories that will make kids want to know more.
The Birchbark books can be enjoyed by independent readers fourth grade and up and, as a caregiver read-aloud, for second grade and up. In some ways, these books can be seen as a companion to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books — similar time frames, locations and amounts of daily life description. Kids will recognize the universality of an obnoxious younger brother (who’s not always bad) and a beautiful big sister (who is sometimes a partner in crime).
Check out one or more of Erdrich’s works soon. It will make the evening of Oct. 23 that much richer.
Shelley Harris is a librarian in Children’s Services at the Oak Park Public Library.