Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Game of Silence

Erdrich, Louse. 2005. THE GAME OF SILENCE. HarperCollins: New York. ISBN 978-0060297893

Plot Summary

Omakaya, the eight year-old Ojibwe girl is growing up in the quickly changing world of 1850, near the Great Lakes.  Traditions and yearly activities are steadfast, but Omakaya can sense a dark change on the horizon.  She is hesitant to accept that it is her time to find and be guided by her spirits.  Her family and mentor, Old Tallow, help to steer her during the troubling times of invasion by the white men.  Omakaya is gifted with the ability to have guiding dreams and visions.  Over the course of a year, she learns to embrace her gift and show her people the way.

Critical Analysis
The Game of Silence beautifully describes the daily life of the Omakaya people, who view kindness as the most important human trait.  Their customs and traditions reflect their views by the way they honor elders and spirits of relatives who have passed.  Erdrich seamlessly enriches the story with the beliefs, rituals and language of the Ojibwe people.  Omakaya and her people inspire love in one another, even when faced with the atrocities of white domination of the lands.  The wicked way that Native Americans were driven off of their land could conjure hatred in even the best of people, but through her visions, Omakaya learns from the waves, “all things change, even us, even you.”  The story of The Game of Silence remembers and honors the Ojibwe in such a way so as to engage the reader and light their inner spiritual fire.  

Awards & Honors 
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Kirkus Editor’s Choice
Horn Book Fanfare
ALA Notable Children’s Book
ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
New York Times Notable

"She has created a world, fictional but real: absorbing, funny, serious and convincingly human." - New York Times 2005
"Erdrich's shaded pencil drawings shore up their softness with strong definition that particularly enhances the energetic and comedic scenes." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2005
"In this heartrending novel the sense of what was lost is overwhelming." - Booklist 2005

  • Teachers can raise kids interest in Native American facts and people by introducing the Ojibwa on this website.  There are links to photos of Ojibwa clothing, food, housing and other elemesnts of the culture that would make excellent classroom discussion.
  • Students can choose a Native American tribe or the teacher can assign one.  After researching their customs they can create at poster or work of art in the style of the tribe, and share it with the class.
  • The class or group can host a Pow-wow with music, art, traditional dress, and if possible, a Native American guest speaker.

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