The characters feel very real, especially when accompanied by the author's own illustrations. Each member of the extended family is carefully drawn, though Omakayas, during the year of her seventh winter, is the real focus of the story. There's plenty of drama, though it's subtle, as real life is. The story is based on the history of the author's own family, members of the Ojibwa tribe, who lived on the Island of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker in Lake Superior in the mid 19th century. In her introduction, she says she intends to write a series of books about this family. I hope she did. A reasonably good reader could handle this on her or his own; younger children would love having it read to them, and learn a lot from the story, with its humor and tragedy.