Review of Makoons

erdrich_makoonsstar2 Makoons [Birchbark House]
by Louise Erdrich; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Harper/HarperCollins    166 pp.
8/16    978-0-06-057793-3    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-06-057794-0    $17.89    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-239540-5    $10.99

This fifth title in the Birchbark House series, a direct sequel to Chickadee (rev. 9/12), opens with Makoons, a young Ojibwe boy, telling a vision of his family’s future, concluding sadly, “I know we will have to save them. Only…we cannot save them all.” Then we are dropped into the warm, nurturing, and productive world of his multigenerational family, now making a new life on the Great Plains. Makoons and his twin Chickadee are both recovering from the events of the previous book: Makoons from his serious illness; Chickadee from his kidnapping ordeal. The two are constantly on the move, developing their horse-riding skills with mixed success, participating in buffalo hunts, and just plain getting in trouble. Warm intergenerational moments abound (for instance, an adult prank calling out the boys’ attempt to shirk the onerous task of tanning hides). As in the earlier Birchbark House books, Erdrich provides fascinating information about Ojibwe daily life, here especially details about buffalo hunting. Throughout, there are poignant moments, including the deaths of several family members and a sense of foreboding about the future as the buffalo begin to disappear. Whether encountering this community for the first time or returning to it, readers will be enriched by Erdrich’s finely crafted corrective to the Eurocentric dominant narrative of America’s past. Soft black-and-white drawings are scattered throughout, with back matter consisting of an author’s note on the Ojibwe language and a glossary and pronunciation guide (not seen).

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Monica Edinger
Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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