Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Recommended: JOHNNY'S PHEASANT written by Cheryl Minnema, pictures by Julie Flett

Johnny's Pheasant is written by Cheryl Minnema (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) and illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis). New in 2019, it is a picture book I am pleased to recommend.

Grandma's are special, aren't they? Mine was, and I know my mom is special to my daughter and all her other grandchildren. In some families, grandma's make things. When I was a kid, I hung out with my grandma, a lot. I have such fond memories of those times, helping and watching her make things.

Back in the 1960s when the US government was putting a blacktop road on our reservation, they also strung barbed wire fencing to keep livestock off the road. That barbed wire came on wire spools that are about the size of a 5 gallon bucket. The end parts of the spool looked like flower petals. Here's a photo that sort of looks like what I have in my memory:

Image result for barb wire spool vintage

I walked with my grandmother for miles and miles, gathering up empty, cast off spools. At home, she bound them together in an array that she attached to a wood frame. These then became charming gates to the porch, and to the garden. She also worked with feathers. She especially liked peacock feathers. She'd trim them and attach them to fabric wall hangings. They were so pretty!

In Johnny's Pheasant, we see a grandma and grandson, out and about. Johnny spies something in the grass. Turns out, it is a pheasant! Grandma thinks it is dead and that she can use its feathers in her craft work. But Johnny thinks the pheasant is ok. He's right!

The pheasant comes to from its seemingly-dead state, and flies about the house, at one point, landing on Grandma's head! Johnny thinks the pheasant, lying there in Grandma's house, had heard his grandma say she was going to use its feathers--and her words roused it!

From grandma's head, the pheasant flies out the open door. Johnny and his grandma go outside and watch it fly away. But, a single feather flutters to the ground. When Johnny hands it to his grandma, she exclaims "Howah."

Howah is an Ojibwe expression meaning 'oh my!' I enjoyed reading this story, but when I read "Howah," I paused. Ojibwe kids are gonna love that! Johnny's Pheasant is a delight on many levels. Published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2019, I recommend it for every family, Native or not, who tells stories about grandma's. Its quite a heartwarming story! 

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