The Game of Silence

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Game of Silence Book Poster Image
White settlers force Indian family to leave land.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Pinch plays numerous nasty pranks on his sister.

Violence

A moose is shot through the head, several fights. children are punished with a switch, some people die from eating bad meat, and a woman's frostbitten finger is amputated with a hatchet.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A couple of references to alcohol, adults and children smoke a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, in the midst of pretty mild content (especially considering that the subject is the forced migration of Native Americans) there is an amputation of a finger. It's not graphically described, but it still may shock sensitive children.

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What's the story?

Omakayas's tribe is worried when they hear rumors that, despite treaties, they will be forced to leave their lands to make room for white settlers. They send messengers out in different directions to try to find out what is happening. Meanwhile the rest of the tribe carries on with their daily lives through the fall, winter, and spring, as they wait for the messengers to return.

Omakayas has plenty to deal with: there are the everyday survival tasks of gathering and preparing food and creating shelter and clothing; an upcoming spiritual quest which she dreads; and dealing with her brother Pinch, a prankster who has fallen in with two of the tribal hotheads.

Is it any good?

This second in a planned nine-book series is much like its predecessor: While there is a marginal plot, it's primarily a portrait of Ojibwe life in the mid-19th century. Those looking for an angry and violent meditation on the inhumanity of the European settlers' treatment of the natives won't find it here: There are no mean people or bad guys, beyond the distant and disembodied government that is making them move. The Indians and settlers live side-by-side in peace and friendliness, if not mutual comprehension.

Louise Erdrich writes in a flowing, seamless style, and liberally salts her story with Ojibwe words (explained in a glossary, though most can be inferred from context). An Ojibwe herself, she writes with the confidence and authority of an insider.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the treatment of Native Americans by European settlers, though the presentation here is gentle. Where could you learn more if you wanted to?

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