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Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Chickadee is the first novel of a new arc in the critically acclaimed Birchbark House series by New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich.

Twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons have done everything together since they were born—until the unthinkable happens and the brothers are separated.

Desperate to reunite, both Chickadee and his family must travel across new territories, forge unlikely friendships, and experience both unexpected moments of unbearable heartache as well as pure happiness. And through it all, Chickadee has the strength of his namesake, the chickadee, to carry him on.

Chickadee continues the story of one Ojibwe family's journey through one hundred years in America. School Library Journal, in a starred review, proclaimed, "Readers will be more than happy to welcome little Chickadee into their hearts."

The paperback edition includes additional material, such as an interview with the author and activities.

Curriculet Details
42 Questions
47 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 6th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining characterization, the impact of setting on plot and the development of theme. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about Native American cultural traditions and historical and geographic primary documents important to the setting and plot. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of personal responsibility, cultural identity, and family bonds. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library


Take time to read the table of contents and study the map on the next few pages. Understanding the format of a book will help you make predictions and inferences about the characters, setting, plot, theme and conflict. For example, chapter three's title is "Reunion" which means you can expect characters that have been separated will meet each other again. Predicting and inferring while you read are important reading strategies. Also, pay special attention to the map page. Can you infer the book's theme?  


"Chickadee" is the fourth book in a series about one Native American family. This family belongs to the Ojibwe tribe and lived in 1866 in the tall forests of northern Minnesota. However, the prologue tells the reader things are about to change and the family will have to move to the Great Plains. Study the image below. How are Great Plains different than a forest?  (This annotation contains an image)

ONE: The Hunting Spirit

The narrator describes Chickadee as "an exhausting child" and says "there were two of him." What do these expressions mean? 
Songs have always played an important part in Native American culture. As you read, notice how often characters in this story sing special songs for different reasons. Here is an example of a beautiful blending of modern and traditional Native American music. The images are of people from many Native tribes.  (This annotation contains a video)
Authors often use commas to set off definitions in sentences. Look at the highlighted example. Do you notice how the author defines the Ojibwe word "Iskigamizige-giizis" by directly following the word with the phrase "the Moon of Maple Sap"? Although "Iskigamizige-giizis" may not be a word you know, you can infer that it means "the Moon of Maple Sap" because the definition is set off with a pair of commas and directly follows the unfamiliar word. Can you find two other examples of Ojibwe words followed by English definitions?  
Here the author develops characters through character action and description. The author says, "Omakayas tried to hide the tears in her eyes." We can see that Omakayas is emotional through her actions when she remembers how her baby sons almost died. But the author also develops characters through descriptions. Omakayas says, "But you had strong guardian spirits...the chickadee, the bear." By describing the "strong guardian spirits" the author reveals more about the brothers. They will need strong guardian spirits to face challenges throughout the story.  (This annotation contains a video)
Which is an objective summary of the highlighted sentence? 
The author, Louise Erdrich, tells two stories in parallel. She opens the first plot with the boys and their mother in their home. In the same chapter, Erdrich switches to a separate plot with the boys' father far away hunting a moose in the marshland. As you read the next chapters, pay attention as the author switches back and forth between the parallel plots.  (This annotation contains an image)
While Chickadee and Makoons are safe with their mother back at the camp, their father, Animikiins, has had an accident while hunting. While Animikiins struggles, what does he see on the shore in this section? 
Below is a primary document, a photograph of two Native American boys practicing with their bows and arrows. For many generations, Native children, especially boys, learned how to hunt with bows and arrows. What details can you identify in this picture that show how things change over time? What details show how some things stay the same? (This annotation contains an image)

TWO: Gaawiin Mashi

Here Animikiins experiences an internal conflict. This means a character feels a struggle between his or her thoughts or emotions. Internal conflicts affect character action and influence the plot. In the space below, infer one reason why Animikiins "felt joy" when he saw the vision of his father and one reason why Animikiins also felt "despair." 
Animikiins does not use matches to start his fire. Matches could get wet and fail to start. Lighters had not been invented in 1866. Animikiins uses flint, "the striker," and a knife, "the steel," to start his fire. Watch the video to see how this is done. Important! Never start a fire without adult supervision, always use a safe place, and ALWAYS be sure your fire is completely cold before leaving it.  (This annotation contains a video)
What can you infer from the dialogue and the characters' actions? 
Animikiins solved two problems in this chapter. One, he survived his plunge into the frozen water. Two, he found the moose that will feed his family. However, he quickly encounters another problem. Moose are huge animals weighing hundreds of pounds. How does the author increase the plot's suspense in the last two lines of the chapter?  (This annotation contains an image)

THREE: Reunion

Everyone notices how Omakayas sets out a large bowl of stew for Animikiins even though he is not present. What does this detail demonstrate about their point of view? 
Animikiins is trapped by the blizzard in the forest. His family is trapped by the snow in their home with very little food. How does the author build tension in the highlighted paragraph? (This annotation contains a video)
In order to travel over the deep snow, Omakayas wears snowshoes and takes a toboggan and her dog. The primary document below is a drawing of how Native people traveled through heavy snow. Notice the snowshoes on the leader's feet, the dogs in their harnesses, and the toboggan, a type of long sled.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here the author, Louise Erdrich, uses two forms of characterization to describe the relationship between Animikiins and Omakayas. "They hurled themselves together and held close" is an example of indirect characterization. Erdrich shows that the characters love each other through their actions. "They treasured each other very deeply" is an example of direct characterization. Erdrich tells the reader directly how the characters feel. Both types of characterization are important tools authors use to develop characters. In the next paragraph, Erdrich writes, "Animikiins had glared at her, starving, on that day so long ago." Is this quote an example of indirect or direct characterization? 
Here is another primary document, a photograph of an Ojibwe family outside of a winter wigwam. This picture was taken in 1885 somewhere on the St. Croix, a river in Minnesota and Wisconsin. What details can you identify in the picture that have appeared in the first three chapters of "Chickadee"? (This annotation contains an image)

FOUR: Small Things

How do the words "sneak," "evaded," "ditched" and "hidden" influence the tone of the selection?   
Do you like maple syrup on your pancakes? Have you ever wondered where it comes from? Every year in the northern United States and Canada, people "tap" the maple trees with a tool called a spile. Before there were metal spiles like the one in the picture below, people made spiles from wood. After placing a spile in the tree, the tree weeps sap. People collect the sweet sap and boil it down in large kettles to make syrup and candy.  (This annotation contains an image)
The words Anishinabeg and Ojibwe refer to the same group of people. Both words are used by characters in this book. Below is a map showing where Ojibwe people have lived.  (This annotation contains an image)
"Small things have great power" is a theme the author repeats throughout the novel. Pay attention to how Chickadee's understanding of this theme changes as the plot progresses. 
How does the author's descriptions impact the mood of the text? 

FIVE: Sons of Zhigaag

How does old Zhigaag react to Chickadee and Nokomis laughing at his "comical" appearance? 
Makoons ties old Zhigaag's moccasins together. Old Zhigaag's moccasins may have looked something like this.  (This annotation contains an image)
How does this sentence develop the plot? 
The Catholic priests Omakayas visits wore black and carried a Rosary, a string of beads used to help people remember prayers.  (This annotation contains an image)

SIX: The Way It Happened

How do all the characters change when the two men arrive at where the boys are hiding? 
The Zhigaag brothers smoke pipes that may have looked like the ones below.  (This annotation contains an image)
How do the characters' actions impact the plot in this sentence? 
How could the two big Zhigaag brothers carry Chickadee away with only two horses? Horses can carry heavy loads, so Chickadee probably rode with one brother for while, then rode with the other.  (This annotation contains an image)

SEVEN: The Chase

The Stolen Child is a poem by Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The poem tells the story of a boy taken by fairies. Read the last stanza of the poem. How is the boy in the poem similar to Chickadee?"Away with us he's going,The solemn-eyed:He'll hear no more the lowingOf the calves on the warm hillsideOr the kettle on the hobSing peace into his breast,Or see the brown mice bobRound and round the oatmeal chest.For he comes, the human child,To the waters and the wildWith a faery, hand in hand,For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand." 
Two Strike is a woman who chooses to live her life differently than most of the other women in her culture. In 1866, it was unusual for a woman to work outside of the home. Today, things are different. Many women enjoy hunting and fishing in the outdoors.  (This annotation contains an image)

EIGHT: Bouyah

How does the change in setting impact Chickadee? 
Chickadee does not know that a potbellied stove looks this. He also does not know he is expected to make a fire out of "buffalo chips," the dried droppings of buffalo. In 1866, buffalo were plentiful on the Great Plains. Trees were not. So, people used buffalo dung to heat their homes and cook their food.  (This annotation contains an image)
Reread the description of bouyah, the trapper's stew. It sounds disgusting, but "disgusting" is an opinion. The Zhigaag brothers seem to really enjoy the stew. Without stating any opinions, summarize how Chickadee makes the stew.  
Chickadee Chapters 1-8 Quiz 
Who is the protagonist in this section? Who are the antagonists? How many antagonists are there? (This annotation contains a video)

NINE: Into The Plains

Here the narrator provides important information about the family. This is called a turning point in the text. The family has not only lost their birchbark house, but they have lost their way of life. Now, they will have to adapt to living like people on the Great Plains. Below is an image of teepees, the houses Native Americans on the Plains built.  (This annotation contains an image)
Omakayas is right to tell the others to find shelter. Blizzards could blow through quickly on the Plains. If people did not find shelter, they could die. In 1888, a surprise storm killed hundreds of people across the northern midwest United States. Most of the victims were children trying to get home from school. The storm was named "the children's blizzard." (This annotation contains an image)

TEN: Two Strike’s Knives

Why does Orph Carter jump out of his blankets when he hears the name Two Strike? 
Chickadee questions why the brothers make the same motions when they mention their mothers. He assumes it is sign language for "mother" that the Zhigaag brothers learned from the priests. Actually, it is called "the sign of the cross" and some religious groups, including most Catholics, make the sign of the cross when they pray. The picture below illustrates a story about St. Francis who stopped an attacking wolf by making the sign of the cross. (This annotation contains an image)
In previous chapters, the Zhigaag brothers acted as antagonists against Chickadee, the protagonist. However, here the characters have changed. Babiche is upset over his sick brother and the horses. He has already admitted he likes Chickadee and in this scene, he asks Chickadee for advice. Predict how Chickadee's answer will change the plot. 

ELEVEN: River Break

Omakayas and Animikiins both offer tobacco to the spirits when they pray for Chickadee's safety. For many Native Americans, the tobacco plant is sacred and should not be used in cigarettes because cigarette smoking is to harmful. Below is a picture of tobacco plants grown in North Carolina. (This annotation contains an image)

TWELVE: The Strange Family

Chickadee's internal conflict is  
The "creature" Chickadee sees may have worn an outfit like the one in the drawing below. Catholic nuns in 1866 covered their hair and wore special clothing called habits. Even today, priests and nuns refer to each other as "sister" and "brother" even though they are not related.  (This annotation contains an image)
How does the author build tension with this sentence? 
Do you speak another language? Even if you don't, you can communicate with someone with a smile or frown, a kind or angry tone of voice. Watch the video to learn the Ojibwe word for sunrise. What emotion is the woman in the video feeling? How do you know? (This annotation contains a video)
What do Mother's words reveal about her character? 
A ferry barge is a flat boat that carried people and vehicles across a river or lake. This ferry barge is attached to strong cables on both sides of the river. Ferrymen move the barge along the cables to stay on course. If the cables break, the ferrymen have no way of controlling the barge.  (This annotation contains an image)
What detail makes Chickadee decide to steal the knife? 

THIRTEEN: A Desperate Matter

Chickadee's shirt may have looked like the picture below. "Buckskin" is the leather made from deer hide. When worked well, it is very soft and warm. How do you think Chickadee will respond to Mother Anthony trading his clothes? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Chickadee running "into the safety of the woods" change the plot? 

FOURTEEN: Setting Up Home

Notice the illustration above this sentence. It is a drawing of a beaver pelt stretched and drying on a wooden hoop. Illustrations in texts help readers see things like characters and settings. Look back through the novel and pause at the illustrations. How do the drawings reveal character? How do they show setting? 
How do Margaret's words and actions conflict? 
Calling the Zhigaag brothers "skunks" takes a humorous tone because zhigaag in Ojibwe means "skunk," a black and white stripped animal that produces a terrible smell when it is nervous or angry.  (This annotation contains an image)
Margaret has changed her mind about her husband's relatives. Look back in this chapter. In the space below, list one reason Margaret has begun to like Quill's family.  

FIFTEEN: At the Mercy Of Two Strike

The Zhigaag brothers provide comic relief in Erdrich's novel. They laugh at each other, make up silly songs about terrible food and instantly fall in love with a woman who threatens to slice them "to ribbons" if she ever sees them again. Comical characters like the Zhigaag brothers lighten what could be a distressing story about a kidnapped little boy. Instead, the novel's tone is happy instead of scary or sad. Can you think of other ways the author inserts comedy to keep the tone of her novel upbeat? 
What is the central idea of the highlighted paragraph? 

SIXTEEN: The Small and The Fierce

Here the author repeats her theme--"small things have great power." This theme shows up in other works. One example is from the the movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" based on the book "The Hobbit" written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Watch the scene where Gandalf the Grey speaks with Galadriel, a powerful elf. Galadriel asks Gandalf why he choose Bilbo, a small hobbit, to help fight an evil enemy. How does Gandalf's reply illustrate the theme?  (This annotation contains a video)
In the highlighted section, how do the hawks' attitudes change after they learn Chickadee was sent by his protector? 
The hawk feathers are symbols. They represent the new family members Chickadee has made. Predict how the hawks might help Chickadee as the story continues. (This annotation contains an image)
Chickadee Chapters 9-16 Quiz 

SEVENTEEN: The Cart Train

This sentence is another example of a turning point. The narrator described ways Chickadee provided for himself and cheered himself up. But the action of the plot is not moving forward. Chickadee walks on the trail, he finds food, he walks some more, he wonders if he will grow old on the trail, he keeps walking. When the author writes, "And then something happened," she is telling readers to pay attention. Something is about to change in the plot.  
Oxcarts were once a common way to carry goods over a long distance before trains or cars or planes were invented. Although not many people use oxcarts today, there are some countries that still rely on animals for transportation. (This annotation contains an image)
How will the plot change now that Chickadee has found his Uncle Quill? 

EIGHTEEN: Red River Trail

Here Erdrich uses a simile to compare two actions--reading footprints in the dirt to reading words on a page. How are they similar? How does Animikiins learn what happened to his son?  (This annotation contains an image)
What can be inferred from the highlighted lines? 

NINETEEN: Uncle Quill

Although the Ojibwe traditionally lived in the northern forests, many Ojibwe moved to the Great Plains like Chickadee's family. They learned to adopt customs of Plains people, like hunting buffalo from horse back. Watch the scene from a movie called "Dances With Wolves" that shows what a buffalo hunt might have been like. (The buffalo, horses and actors were not hurt when making the movie. In fact, to get the charging buffalo at the end to run for the camera, the animal handlers bribed him with Oreo cookies!)  (This annotation contains a video)
Which is a summary of the highlighted selection? 
The Metis woman may have a French name--Antoinette--but she is a blend of cultures. The photo below shows a group of modern Metis young people dancing the "Red River Jig," a dance that blends Native American, French, English and Scottish dance styles.  (This annotation contains an image)
Chickadee is experiencing conflicting emotions. This is an example of 

TWENTY: Makoons

What is the impact of Chickadee's kidnapping on Makoons? 
Before refrigeration was invented, people kept certain kinds of vegetables, fruits and even some meats preserved in root cellars. Usually these were holes dug under a house or shed and lined with rocks. The holes, cool in summer and warm in winter, kept the food from rotting too quickly or freezing. Here a woman keeps apples in her root cellar.  (This annotation contains an image)
How does Two Strike's point of view differ from Animikiins's point of view? 


Many cultures, Ojibwe included, consider it rude or offensive to point with a finger. Listen to this Ojibwe grandmother explain why Ojibwe people point with their lips.  (This annotation contains a video)
How does this detail support the theme that small things have great power? 
Chickadee is right to feel uneasy about the cloud. It is really a huge swarm of mosquitoes. Below is a picture of a mosquito cloud in Alaska.  (This annotation contains an image)
What does the word "mock" mean in this sentence? 

TWENTY-TWO: Touching Earth

The Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash, are plants that Native Americans have grown for centuries. The plants support each other, provide plenty of food at different times of the season and their seeds store well. Below is a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama planting a Three Sisters garden at the White House.  (This annotation contains an image)
"Touching Earth" is the title of Chapter 22. How does the highlighted sentence support the theme of this chapter? 

TWENTY-THREE: Return of the Bouyah

After leaving the Zhigaag brothers behind, these two characters show up again. Do you remember how the brothers are for comic relief? Predict what you think might happen now that the brothers have returned.  
How are Chickadee's and Quill's points of view similar? 
The chickadee is a little bird, but this little bird is resourceful, caring and tough enough to survive cold, northern winters. How do you think Chickadee has changed to become like his protector? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Quill's story about how he got his name impact Chickadee? 
If everyone fixed what they broke, what impact would that have? How would the world be different? 

TWENTY-FOUR: The Snake Nest

Why did Chickadee choose to refrain from telling his uncle about the snakes on him while he slept? 
People have used fire to cook food for thousands of years longer than they have cooked with electric power. If you go camping today, you will probably eat food cooked over a fire.  (This annotation contains an image)


Animikiins prays for Makoons by playing his father's drum and singing a healing song. Animikiins asks for help from different spirits of nature. Healing ceremonies, songs and dances play an important role in many Native American cultures today.  (This annotation contains an image)
Chickadee Chapters 16-25 Quiz 
How does Chickadee's final song explain the theme of the novel?