Hungry JohnnyHungry Johnny

Cheryl Minnema, Illustrations by Wesley Ballinger

Indian Country Today feature
Native America Calling (7/28/14)
American Indians in Children’s Literature/Debbie Reese review
Aitkin Independent Age
Ashland Daily Press

At the community feast, observing the bounty of festive foods and counting the numerous elders yet to be seated, Johnny learns to be patient and respectful despite his growling tummy.

“I like to eat, eat, eat,” choruses young Johnny as he watches Grandma at work in the kitchen. Wild rice, fried potatoes, fruit salad, frosted sweet rolls—what a feast! Johnny can hardly contain his excitement. In no time, he’ll be digging in with everyone else, filling his belly with all this good food.

But wait. First there is the long drive to the community center. And then an even longer Ojibwe prayer. And then—well, young boys know to follow the rules: elders eat first, no matter how hungry the youngsters are. Johnny lingers with Grandma, worried that the tasty treats won’t last. Seats at the tables fill and refill; platters are emptied and then replaced. Will it ever be their turn? And will there be enough?

As Johnny watches anxiously, Grandma gently teaches. By the time her friend Katherine arrives late to the gathering, Johnny knows just what to do, hunger pangs or no. He understands, just as Grandma does, that gratitude, patience, and respect are rewarded by a place at the table—and plenty to eat, eat, eat.

Writer and beadwork artist Cheryl Minnema is a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Her beadwork is also featured in our Ojibwe Shoulder Bag Kit.

Artist Wesley Ballinger, also a member of the Mille Lacs Band, works for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Available May 2014 from Minnesota Historical Society Press

$17.95 Cloth, 32 pages, ages 3-7, 10 x 10, 978-0-87351-926-7

Pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s