The Game of Silence

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 2005

Call number



HarperCollins (2005), Edition: First Printing, 272 pages


Nine-year-old Omakayas, of the Ojibwa tribe, moves west with her family in 1849.

Media reviews

The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews
Monica Irwin (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 18, No. 1)) In the sequel to the award winning The Birchbark House, readers are once again introduced to Omakayas (or Little Frog), a young girl in the Ojibwa tribe. It is 1850 and her family lives on Lake Michigan. Her adopted brother,
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Pinch, is growing and becoming more of a pain to the older girl. But the family shows much love for one another and for the whole tribe. When some desperate and hungry strangers arrive in the camp, Omakayas and all the rest of the Ojibwa tribe soon realize that their lives will be changing. Because of the encroachment of the white people on their land, Omakayas and family must eventually leave all they have known. The trip will be difficult but Omakayas has decided to accept the changes and at the conclusion of the book as the family travels, the “game of silence” becomes the game of survival. All must remain totally silent as they travel through some dangerous places. This is a serious book and yet there is much warmth and humor. The book will add to the understanding of each reader as it explores the life of the Ojibwa and the general nature of many Native American tribes in the 1850s.
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2 more
Joe Sutliff Sanders (VOYA, August 2005 (Vol. 28, No. 3)) In this sequel to The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), a young Ojibwe girl embraces her own talents under the threat of a United States government that has determined to take her people's land for itself. The year is 1850, and although her
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family has survived smallpox and unforgiving winters, this latest danger seems insurmountable. Stragglers pushed off their land join the tribe, filling homes emptied by disease and introducing new rivalries. Omakayas feels the first stirrings of romance and proves to the adults that her abilities deserve respect, as she rescues her father from slow death in a frozen lake and helps visualize the new life that the tribe will build to the west. Still a girl, she bristles against the restrictions that adults place on her and struggles to control the jealousy she feels for another girl who has managed to throw off traditional constraints. The first book won enormous praise, including a National Book Award nomination, but this novel is even better. The themes are not only more profound, but the episodic structure of the previous novel is also much exceeded by the interweaving plot threads of young love, sibling rivalry, and frustration with gender roles. The threat that the federal government poses to the community is more than just a framing device; it penetrates all the other concerns of the novel, drawing them tightly together.
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Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices
CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2006) In The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich introduced young readers to Omakayas, a seven-year-old Ojibwe girl in the mid-nineteenth century living on what is now called Madeleine Island. That lyrical novel chronicled one year in the life of
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Omakayas, through seasons marked by both harmony and hardship. Now Omakayas is nine winters old. As summer starts, a worn-out group of elders, women, and children from far-off villages arrive on the shores of their island. They were forced from their homes by the chimookomanag, the white people. Even as they seek refuge within Omakayas’s community, they warn the adults in the village that they will soon face the same fate. Omakayas cannot begin to comprehend the idea of leaving the land she has always called home. As the cycles of the seasons turn and turn again, the villagers await word from the small group of men who’ve gone off in search of news and answers. Meanwhile, they continue with the rhythm of their lives. For Omakayas, this means working and playing within the context of her immediate family, and the larger family that her community represents. From mischievous Pinch, Omakayas’s younger brother; to spirited, unruly Two-Strike Girl; to fierce, independent Old Tallow; to loving, wise Nokomis, Omakayas’s grandmother, the characters live and breathe in a story that is full of humor, richness, and heart. Through it all, Erdrich never strays from the center, where a young girl’s growing awareness of change—in herself and in the world around her—both complicate and facilitate her understanding of what is happening as she faces a future filled with uncertainty. CCBC Category: Fiction for Children. 2005, HarperCollins, 256 pages, $15.99 and $16.89. Ages 8-12.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member megmcg624
Omakayas's family senses that more trouble is coming from the invading chimookoman (white people), continue with their way of life while considering the changes to come. This novel continues the saga started in "The Birchbark House." Erdrich's novel is in English, with several Ojibwe terms
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including and annotated in a concluding glossary.

This is a fantastic and subtle criticism of the injustices done to native Americans. The novel describes the day -to-day tasks and crafts of Omakayas's family, while giving a relatable story of sibling rivalry and the difficulties of growing up. This would be a good recommendation for a 4th grader who likes longer chapter books.
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LibraryThing member bluemopitz
This is the sequel to The Birchbark House and I really enjoyed it. The addition of new characters like Two-Strike girl and Angry boy make for great new stories and the tension is palpable in scenes where the children must play the Game of Silence. This book could be used in curriculum about Native
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Americans and the forced eviction of them from their lands.
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LibraryThing member A.Pilgrim
This sequel to The Birchbark House spans another year in the life of Omakayas and her family. It centers mostly on the Ojibwe culture and everyday life. Yet the white population is quickly encroaching on their territory, bringing illness and destruction with them.
LibraryThing member Jenpark
I liked this book mostly because of the characters, both minor and main. The story line moves a little slowly, I think, but the character development makes up for it.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Audiobook............I listened to this story while in bed with a virus. Usually reading would be too much, but this book was just right! The story is a familiar one about the cultural upheaval of the Ojibway nation resulting from betrayal by the people who "come from where the sun rises". Louise
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Erdrich tells it so well that it is definitely worth a listen. The characters are endearing and varied, and the tales within the tale are universally applicable to any human beings life in terms of love, loss, betrayal, determination, the life of the spirit, and relationships which shape our lives. A really, really nice book!
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LibraryThing member amrahmn
This was a tough read with so many different native names and words. Also, it was a sequel to a book that I have not read! It is a Global Reading Challenge book so many of my students will find it difficult as well. It took a while to get into the story and realize what is happening and what the
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characters are like but it was really interesting - the author does an excellent job of really putting the reader into this historical world. Omakayas is a little girl whose way of life and those of her people is threatened by the white man forcing them to move out of their territory. I enjoyed learning about this particular tribe's way of life and would encourage middle readers to read it to compare how people live - with other native tribes and how we live today.
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LibraryThing member joeydag
2nd in the series and another year in the life of a young Native American girl on the Minnesota frontier in the 1840's. Very moving.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
3.5 stars

This is a children’s book, a continuation of “The Birchbark House”. It is 1850 and Omakayas is now 9-years old. This book goes through another year in her life, all four seasons. In the spring, Omakayas, her family, and the other Ojibwe discover that they are being told by the white
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people that they need to leave. They send out four men to find out what happened, why they must leave – did they break the treaty? While the four men are gone, Omakayas learns about medicines from her grandmother, while her cousin, Two Strikes, though a girl, wants to build her own little army made up of the boys. And, there is more day-to-day stuff happening, as well.

I enjoyed this. Not quite as much as “The Birchbark House”, but it was still enjoyable and I will continue the series. There are very nice illustrations, and some well-done descriptions of how things were done (similar to the first book). I also appreciated the prologue, which was a bit of a recap, as it's been a few years since I read "Birchbark House".
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LibraryThing member Grace.Van.Moer
Second book in series about a young Anishinabe girl and her family. The author does not hold back even though this is written for middle years children. Death by starvation, broken treaties, attacks by neighboring tribes. Fascinating and informative literature.
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Digital audiobook performed by Anna Fields.

Book two in the Birchbark House series which is about an Ojibwa tribe’s life on their island in Lake Superior in the mid-19th century. Omakayas is the young girl who narrates this book, which chronicles a year on the island that is today known as
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Madeline Island.

I love how Erdrich depicts these people and their way of life. Not everything is pleasant or easy, but there is room for joy and happiness, for children to explore and learn. I loved the various adventures (and misadventures) Omakayas, her younger brother Pinch and cousin Two Strike, a girl who is every bit as strong and fierce as any boy her age, get into. It is two years after book one, and Omakayas is growing up. At age nine she has more responsibility to help with the necessary tasks of tribal living. Her intelligence, courage and spirit are recognized by the elders, and her friendship with a white girl, whom she calls “the Break Apart Girl” because of her tightly corseted waist, will be important to them all as they face the changes to their way of life.

Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwa, and she spoke to various Ojibwa elders about the significance of Madeline Island. Events depicted are historically accurate. The text version includes Erdrich’s pencil drawing illustrations. I will definitely continue reading this series.

Anna Fields does a marvelous job narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace and her diction is clear enough that even younger children will not have trouble following the story.
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
A compelling story about strength and gifts in a time of uncertainty. This sequel to The Birchbark House continues Omakayas' quest to understand her power as a dreamer, even as white settlers threaten to encroach on their way of life.
LibraryThing member jgmencarini
I very much enjoyed reading The Game of Silence, but I think it is important to consider that much of what is revealed (or not revealed) depends on the viewpoint of the person telling the story. It is certainly important to acknowledge Erdrich's Native American heritage and the importance of
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minority storytellers contributing to the "canon," for lack of a better word. But should we not also consider what does not get said? Except for Two Strike and Pinch, who are children and are therefore expected to misbehave on occasion, there are no Native American adults who behave less than nobly in the story. If we accept Erdrich's version of life among the Anishinabeg, everyone gets along, newcomers are always accepted with open arms, resources are always shared and distributed equally, and the white settlers (including the priest and Break-Apart Girl) are treated with nothing but kindness and even a winking acceptance of their "white" ways. Nokomis, Deydey, and Old Tallow are benevolent, loving leaders who nurture Omakayas and the other members of the community without strife or conflict. I felt this was somewhat unrealistic. Native Americans are human. That means they make mistakes and bad decisions, they are not always kind or unselfish, and they are not universally supportive and understanding parents. I say all of this to suggest that perhaps, in attempting to counteract the negative stereotypes contained in so many of the stories written about Native Americans, Erdrich went overboard in attempting to depict them positively, and in doing so sacrificed some of the realism necessary to effectuate acceptance and understanding by non-Native American readers.
The inclusion of Old Tallow, who acknowledges her inability to remain in a marital relationship but survives and thrives on her own, contributes to the message that girls are important and contribute to the community in significant ways. I also appreciated Erdrich's subtle inclusion of environmental issues, such as the importance of conserving natural resources and recycling available materials rather than throwing them away. These messages were subtle, and not "preachy," but were communicated in ways that younger readers can appreciate and understand.
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
I've read this at least twice, and am puzzled that goodreads seems to have deleted my review. Continues Omakayas' story and Erdrich's superb storytelling about a Native family's experience during the White westward expansion. Extremely well done.
LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
“Her name, Omakayas, meant Little Frog. She was nine winters old.” It was 1849. She grows up a lot in this book both in her family and in her training with medicine. She has her vision quest! She also gets a new pet and a new baby brother! And a new threat - the white man.

I love Old Tallow! And
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her winter coat! I also liked the Break-Apart-Girl!

It's another great chapter in this series, though it ends with great sadness. The encroachment of the chimookoman, or white people, change everything for Omakayas and her people.

Last sentence:

“Here was the next life they would live together on this earth.”
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