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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: Omakayas (12) and her brother Pinch are close. Traveling along the river, they find good fortune in a little porcupine who befriends them. Pinch - who was initially attacked by the porcupine - changes his name to Quill. Before long, Omakayas begins to wonder about their fortunes. Her brother and cousin are kidnapped by another tribe; survive the harsh winter en route to join their extended family in Lac du Bois; and the loss of Old Tallow, her grandmother. This is the third book in this trilogy about a Native American girl and her family.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and Up
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 5.6
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: The story is poignant, funny, and at times heart wrenching. I found myself frustrated with trying to pronounce the Native American words and sometimes re-reading a passage from an earlier chapter trying to find details I seemed to miss. The Porcupine Year is part of a series, and while it can be read on its own, I think it would have been more enjoyable if I had read The Birchbark House first.
Pros: Plenty of adventure and endearing characters will engage readers and keep them turning the page.
Cons: The vocabulary can be difficult. The phonetics in the glossary are helpful ... but it would be nice to see that up front so you know its there and available.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is an exceptional story that readers can come back to when they need comfort or a laugh.
Educational Themes: This is an historical fiction novel that would be an excellent complement to social studies and history classes, particularly as they relate to US expansion in the 1800s and Native American traditions and practices.