Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Children's Book Review: Heetunka's Harvest

Heetunka's Harvest: A Tale of the Plains Indians
Retold by Jennifer Berry Jones

I picked this book up from the library's pile of Fall-themed children's books because the mouse was cute.  I usually do a bit of a content preview because there's often either a bit of Jesus or unnecessary violence hiding in this midwestern library's children's section; but I didn't have the time, and so grabbed a couple of titles that looked promising.  Maybe I should do that more often!

This is a wonderful story for any Pagan children, regardless of their cultures or the deities their parents honor.  It is a story about sharing with and caring for nature and the nature spirits all around us; a story about our essential connection to them.

Heetunka is a plains mouse that gathers little white beans every winter.  In the story, a group of Souix Indians come to trade with her in the fall season, leaving corn or suet in place of the beans they take from her storehouse.  One woman, not considering the life of Heetunka, decides to be greedy and take all the beans without leaving anything in trade.  Because of her rash actions and haughty attitude, eventually she is punished by a prairie fire burning the tipi to the ground.

This story has a wonderful message about the interconnctedness of all life, and the importance of being good and kind even to those who seem like they can't do anything to harm us.  There is an end of fall/harvest theme that would work well around Mabon, Samhain or Winterfinding.  One word of warning: there is a brief speech by the woman's husband which came across rather rudely; but as a parent I'm very used to selectively editing stories as I read them.  If this is something you'd like to have an older child read, it may be good to discuss the actions of the husband as inappropriate also.  Otherwise, the book sparked a wonderful discussion between my five year old and I about the web of life, and how our actions affect many other beings that we share our world with.

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