“Johnny’s Pheasant”

By Cheryl Minnema,illustrated by Julie Flett. (University of Minnesota Press, $16.95, available Nov. 1.)

On their way home from the farmers market, Johnny and his grandmother see a pheasant lying in the grass. “Pull over, Grandma! Hurry!” Johnny says. The bird is still warm. He thinks it is sleeping, but Grandma thinks otherwise. “I’m sorry, Johnny,” she tells him. “I think he may have been hit by a car, but I can sure use his feathers for my craftwork.”

Cheryl Minnema, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, tells a hopeful story of respect for living creatures. The pastel and paper illustrations by Cree-Metis artist Julie Flett capture colors and textures of the prairie — the rough grass, the glow of the setting sun, the joy in Johnny’s face when the bird begins to fly.

Cheryl Minnema will launch the book at 2 p.m. Nov. 2 at Red Balloon, 891 Grand Av., St. Paul.

 

“A Map Into the World”

By Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim. (Carolrhoda Books, $17.99.)

In a busy world, little Paj Ntaub (pronounced Ba Ndao) pays attention. When she moves with her mother, father and grandmother into a little green house, she notices the beans and melons in the garden; the ginkgo trees with their fan-shaped leaves; the streetlights shining in the dark. And she notices the couple across the street, elderly Bob and Ruth, who like to sit outside on a bench and watch the world go by.

By the next spring, Paj Ntaub has two little brothers, and her mother is busier than ever. But Bob has lost his wife; Ruth has died. Paj Ntaub brings her bucket of chalk to his sidewalk, where she draws for him everything she has noticed in the past year. “I started my picture with a teardrop,” she writes. “And then I made it splatter like sunshine.”

She draws the ginkgo leaf, the garden, a worm, the snow and her house. Her drawing, she tells Bob, is “a map into the world. Just in case you need it.” Which, being lost in his grief, he does.

Kao Kalia Yang’s tender story of the connection between the compassionate child and the grieving neighbor is gorgeous and moving. Paj Ntaub is both a girl’s name, and the Hmong words for the magnificent needlework used in Hmong storycloths — which South Korean artist Seo Kim has depicted on the beautiful endpapers.

This wistful story is suffused with love.

Events: Book launch, 6 p.m. Sept. 28, Minnesota Children’s Museum, 10 W. 7th St., St. Paul; 7 p.m. Oct. 1, East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul; 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8, Music Building 2F, St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Av., St. Paul; Oct. 12, Twin Cities Book Festival, Oct. 12, State Fairgrounds, Falcon Heights; 11 a.m. Nov. 16, Wild Rumpus, 2720 W. 43rd St., Mpls.

 

 

“My Mighty Journey: A Waterfall’s Story”

By John Coy, illustrated by Gaylord Schanilec. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $18.95.)

The scope of time is apparent from the first words of this impressive book, which traces a waterfall on the Mississippi River from the robust days of the woolly mammoth to its more restrained incarnation today: “For those who came before, those now, and those to come.”

John Coy’s rhythmic, pounding story of Owamniyomni, also known as St. Anthony Falls — which, over time, has migrated 15 miles upriver, an astounding fact — employs verbs that bring the surging power of the water to the page: “People pour in. ... Booms break, logs escape, crashing ... and jamming.”

Gaylord Schanilec’s collage illustrations and dramatic typography keep the pulsation going. Eventually, the falls grow calm, contained. “I am no longer as massive as I was. ... But I am still powerful. I am still here.”

A note at the end explains how the book — years in the making — came about, with author and illustrator working closely together and with many others, walking the river, collecting bark, wood, roots, stone and other natural objects to use in the images.

Book launch, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.; Oct. 12, Twin Cities Book Festival, State Fairgrounds, Falcon Heights; 2 p.m. Nov. 2, Central Library, Nicollet Mall, Mpls.; 11 a.m. Nov. 9, Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls.

 

“My Footprints”

By Bao Phi, illustrated by Basia Tran. (Capstone, $25.95.)

Like his first picture book, “A Different Pond,” Bao Phi’s new book is a simple story that contains multitudes. “My Footprints” is about a young girl’s wintry walk home from school after being bullied.

“Footprints … My footprints!” she says, and she begins to imagine her tracks in the snow to be the prints of fierce animals — leopards, grizzly bears, dragons. “Strong and brave, a bear stands up for itself. Other animals are afraid to make fun of it.”

At home, her parents, Momma Arti and Momma Ngoc, continue the game, conjuring up fabulous creatures from mythology.

This delightful story about games, imagination, mythology and familial love also touches on more serious themes without becoming preachy — bullying, courage, female empowerment, race and sexual orientation. Phi’s vivid writing (a cardinal “could fly away into the giant pane of sky”) and charming illustrations by Polish-Vietnamese illustrator Basia Tran, make this a book that children will want to reread.

Saturday Storytime, 9:30 a.m. Oct. 5, Cardigan Doughnuts, City Center, Mpls.; Twin Cities Book Festival, 11 a.m. Oct. 12, State Fairgrounds, Falcon Heights; Tuesday Night Market, 6 p.m. Oct. 29, Midtown Farmers Market, Mpls.