The Game of Silence
Hardcover 256 pages
The Game of Silence is the second children's novel in Ojibwe writer Louise Erdrich's trilogy about the life of a 19th century Ojibwe family set on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. The reader follows the daily life of 9-year-old Omakayas and her extended family during the yearly cycle of activities in 1849. This loving family enjoys a satisfying and happy way of life but everything changes during the summer season when a raggedy group of distant relative stumbles into their camp in search of food and shelter. Their arrival forebodes difficult years ahead for this Ojibwe camp as settlers and the American government begin their pressure for the Ojibwe to move their camps further west. The story revolves around the day-to-day life of Omakayas, her parents, siblings, and grandparents. Her daily routine brings sibling rivalry, adventures with playmates, and daily chores helping her mother, medicine gathering with her grandmother. During the summer season the family enjoys fishing, ricing, and canoe building. In an early chapter of the story the reader is introduced to the concept of the game of silence. This game is played by the children of the camp as they earn small gifts for behaving with restraint during family meetings. Omakayas usually manages to win a small treat for her silence. Her younger brother, Pinch, always manages to test her patience during these games. Omakayas and her friend learn hard lessons when they take matters into their own hands and sneak off too early during wild rice gathering. During the fall activities the girl and her playmates play tricks on each other and enjoy the experience of visiting the trader's store and meeting a young non-native girl. Winter brings a time of storytelling and tense days while the family awaits their father's return during his trip with the local priest, Father Baraga. Omakayas learns more about her special gifts of foresight during this period when she dreams about her father being stranded on an island. Omakayas tells her mother and grandmother and a search party is dispatched and brings the men safely back home. More trouble comes when a messenger brings disturbing news about the American government's plans to remove the Ojibwe farther to the west. Elder sister Angeline works diligently on a beaded velvet vest for her beloved who has gone out to verify the government's plans. When spring arrives Omakayas finally acknowledges her need to go on her spirit or vision quest with the guidance of her grandmother, Nokomis. While she is alone with the spirits, the girl foresees her life as one of overwhelming change. Despite the harsh impact of the coming events, Omakayas and her family remain positive and strong as they pack their belongings and set off in their canoes for unknown territory. Readers are treated to a captivating novel about an Ojibwe girl whose life is filled with humour, adventure, and serious consequences. Throughout the story, Erdrich has seamlessly woven Ojibwe terms and cultural traditions in a story that surpasses the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. A glossary of Ojibwe vocabulary is provided along with a helpful map and black and white sketches created by the author. This wonderful novel captures childhood emotions and feelings with careful attention and vivid writing. A paper edition is available. Reading Level: 6.1; ATOS Reading Level: 5.9; Guided Reading Level: W; Lexile measure 900.