Friday, November 26, 2021


The Case of the Burgled Bundle
A Mighty Muskrats Mystery
Written by Michael Hutchinson (Misipawistik Cree Nation)
Published by Second Story Press
Publication Year 2021
Reviewed by Jean Mendoza
Review Status: Highly Recommended

Oh, the joys of a good mystery! This year saw publication of the third book in the middle-grade Mighty Muskrats series by Michael Hutchinson (Cree). This is a "Short and Sweet" review.*

The publisher, Second Story Press, says this about The Case of the Burgled Bundle:

The National Assembly of Cree Peoples has gathered together in the Windy Lake First Nation, home to the Mighty Muskrats -- cousins Chickadee, Atim, Otter, and Sam. But when the memory bundle, the center of a four-day-long ceremony, is taken, the four mystery-solving cousins set out to catch those responsible and help protect Windy Lakes reputation!... [P]rime suspect and long-time bully Pearl takes off to the city with her older brother and known troublemaker, Eddie. If they've brought the burgled bundle with them, the Mighty Muskrats fear it may be lost for good.

Here's my first reason of four to highly recommend this book: Authenticity. The author is Cree, and the setting is a fictional Cree community in what is currently known as Canada, with Cree characters who are believable, likable, and never stereotypical. The mystery confronting the young sleuths is plausible and meaningful in their community (though it can certainly resonate with non-Native readers). The resolution is surprising (to me, at least) but logical and satisfying in that context. 

Second reason: Contemporary setting. As in the other two Mighty Muskrat books, current and ongoing issues for Indigenous people are central to the action. But it doesn't feel like like the author merely wants to make the story more timely or "more Indigenous," and he's not talking down to his readers, either. For example, from the very beginning, the reader gets a sense that unwelcome changes are afoot: without consulting all the leaders, someone with influence has changed the location of the important opening ceremony. It's a political decision that excludes most of the Cree people who expected to witness it. This developing situation especially concerns the Muskrats' Grandpa, who's an important recurring character. 

Third reason: What's in the details. Hutchinson continues to embed factual information about Cree history and present-day life into his stories to convey the significance of what's going on. In the first chapter, for example, there's an especially poignant image of a middle-aged Cree man speaking in Cree to "an ancient woman," a frail elder seated beside him. He's telling her what he hears as he tries to listen in to the ceremony that was supposed to be public, but isn't. In one brief passage, readers see that Cree is a living language, that respect for elders is important, and that people are distressed but resourceful in response to being cut off from an important cultural event.

Fourth reason to highly recommend The Case of the Burgled Bundle:  It's just a really engaging mystery. 

A word of caution: I'm not Cree, and can't speak to the authenticity of the descriptions of the meeting of Cree nations or  Cree traditions. If Cree readers of AICL see that I've missed something important, please let me know so I can note it here.

*A Short and Sweet rec is not an in-depth analysis. It is our strategy to tell you that we recommend a book we have read. We will definitely refer to it in book chapters and articles we write, and in presentations we do. Our Short and Sweet Recs include four reasons why we recommend the book.

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