cover image Johnny’s Pheasant

Johnny’s Pheasant

Cheryl Minnema, illus. by Julie Flett. University of Minnesota, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5179-0501-9

Johnny and his grandmother are on their way back from the market when he spots “a small feathery hump” by the side of the road. It’s a pheasant, and Johnny insists that it is just sleeping, while Grandma suspects a more permanent state of rest. Minnema (Hungry Johnny), a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, gives the boy a sweetly inquisitive, playful disposition and an authentic voice, as when he exuberantly “hoot, hoot”s, anticipating the pheasant’s waking. Grandma lovingly humors her grandchild, stopping short of saying the pheasant is dead, and she mentions that the bird’s feathers would be perfect for her craft work. After the pair brings the pheasant home, surprising results will upend some readers’ expectations. The interplay between the two Native characters’ viewpoints lends subtle humor, satisfying both idealistic and pragmatic outlooks, and the ending deepens the tender tone. Flett, who is Cree-Métis, creates muted meadow scenes that encourage contemplation, and thoughtful details (Grandma’s floral scarf, a delicate pheasant feather) immerse the reader further in this delightful celebration of intergenerational love. Ages 3–8. [em](Nov.) [/em]