The Birchbark House Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''The Birchbark House'' is a children's historical fiction novel featuring an Ojibwe protagonist. These questions can help guide your students through a discussion on the book's themes, characters, and plot.

The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House is a 1999 children's story by Louise Erdrich, respected for her work featuring indigenous protagonists. The story follows a young Ojibwe girl named Omakayas and her family throughout a year in the mid-19th century. These questions are designed for students in upper elementary school, as the book is most often rated as being appropriate for grades 3-5. However, the questions can be easily adapted to higher or lower reading levels as needed.

Questions about Characters and Plot

  • Who is the main character in The Birchbark House? How are we introduced to Omakayas? What do we learn about her? How would you describe her personality?
  • Who are the members of Omakayas' family? What are they like? What do we learn about them? What are the relationships like between the characters?
  • What is this story about? In one sentence, describe the plot of The Birchbark House.
  • What is the central conflict in this novel? How is this conflict established? How does it escalate and change throughout the story? What do you think were the most important events in this story that keep the plot moving?
  • How do characters change throughout the novel? How does Omakayas change? What events help her change? What kinds of change does she go through? How does this influence the way she views herself? How does this influence the ways that others view her? How does the author weave magical elements into the story?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How is the climax resolved? What did you think about the ending of the novel? Did it feel appropriate? Do you still have any questions about the characters or plot?

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