Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates the life and civil rights work of Dr. King. In 1994, the holiday was officially recognized as a National Day of Service where volunteers across the country work together to make a difference in their communities. The titles include children’s books about Dr. King, fiction and nonfiction books about ordinary people who stand up for what’s right, and stories about helping others and giving back.
You’re sure to find some great books here to share with your children, grandchildren, or students! Stay safe and be well! ~Becky
Growing up in Michigan, the opportunity to play in winter snow was always a given. Many years would pass, before living in the much different climates of North Carolina and now Texas, to understand how scores of children (and even adults!) maintain such strong desires and dreams for that white stuff.
In 2019, I wrote a blog post with the happy news about the anticipated publication of my story, “Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta,” which revolves around two children waiting for snow. To check out the history of Heikki Lunta in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you can read that post here.
Today, I’m excited to share my full story with you, which was first published in U.P. Reader Issue #3.
Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta!
Another winter holiday passed with no snow in sight. Not one flake. That glorious white stuff hadn’t fallen on Ella and Rae-Ann’s part of Texas in years. The sisters searched the sky when cold winds blew. They peered out the windows to see what was new. Nothing.
“We had such fun playing in the snow that year,” said Ella, pointing at a framed photo.
“I only remember making snow angels when I look at that picture,” said her younger sister, Rae-Ann.
New Year’s Day came and went. The children said ‘good-bye’ to winter break and returned to their classrooms.
Mom shooed two dogs away as she sliced apples and spooned peanut butter onto plates for an after-school snack. Grandma sat in the kitchen finishing her coffee.
“Y’all come to the table, girls. And don’t let the dogs get your food,” warned Mom. With a shiver, she turned the furnace up a notch before joining the others.
“It’s sure getting cold out there,” said Grandma. “I hear that Heikki Lunta might make a visit.”
“Hay-Kee who?” asked Ella, licking peanut butter from her fingers.
Rae-Ann’s eyes stole a quick look at the back door.
“His story’s rather long,” their grandmother said.
“Tell us,” the sisters begged in one voice.
“Well, you know I used to live w-a-a-a-y at the tip-top of Upper Michigan,” Grandma began.
“I sort of remember visiting you there,” said Ella.
“That was summer. You have no idea what it’s like in the winter.”
“Lots of snow?” asked Rae-Ann.
“Tons,” nodded Grandma. “The snowbanks grow taller than people. Schools sometimes close for a week at a time because of the blizzards.”
“Wow!” Ella exclaimed. The dogs cocked their heads to the side, listening.
“What does that have to do with this Heikki Lunta?” Mom asked.
“Quite a few families in Northern Michigan came from a far-away, snowy country called Finland,” said Grandma. “Many years ago, those who lived in Finland shared stories called ‘myths,’ just like most ancient people around the world.”
“I learned about myths in school,” Ella said. “Those are made-up stories that explain how things work or got started. We read about how the elephant got its trunk.”
“Exactly,” said Mom. “And you’ve both seen a movie about Hercules, which is also a myth.”
“That’s right,” Grandma said. “Many of those stories include gods and goddesses. ’Heikki Lunta’ is like a snow god from Finland. People who live in Upper Michigan often talk about him in the winter when they’re hoping for snow. Hotels and restaurants looking for visitors to the area even put up signs saying, ‘Heikki Lunta, do your thing.’”
“Did you ever see him?” whispered Rae-Ann.
“He’s just pretend,” Ella reminded her younger sister. “Grandma, why did you tease us and say he’s coming here?”
Mom and Grandma exchanged knowing looks.
“The weather report says we might get a bit of snow tonight or tomorrow,” Mom answered.
Her daughters’ smiles reached from ear to ear.
“Make it snow, Heikki Lunta, make it snow,” sang Grandma, when it was time for her to leave.
When Dad returned from work, the sisters rushed out to his red pick-up truck and told him about the forecast. After dinner, they drew pictures of their neighborhood covered in snow. At the bottom of hers, Ella wrote, “Please send snow Haykee Loonta.”
The girls welcomed bedtime that night. Ella left her blinds open in hopes of seeing some flurries. In another room down the hall, Rae-Ann was excited and just a little nervous. She peeked through long lashes at her bedroom door before falling asleep.
While she slept, Rae-Ann imagined someone like Hercules. He wore a heavy white coat with its collar turned up against the cold. Ella dreamed of a man with long gray hair and beard, who was dressed in a flowing blue robe. Wind and snow swirled around him. Heikki Lunta? As the whole town slept, dark clouds gathered and delivered a bit of magic.
At the sound of Dad’s pick-up leaving in the morning, four eyes popped open wide. Rae-Ann and Ella ran to their windows and cheered at the sight of powdery snow on the ground and glistening flakes in the air. The time said 9:00. Why had their parents let them sleep so late?
“You’re taking a snow day,” Mom explained in the kitchen.
“School’s closed?” asked Rae-Ann.
“The roads are quite safe, according to the radio. We don’t get snow very often, so Dad and I decided to let you stay home and enjoy it.”
“Yay!” both girls cheered, as they ran to get dressed.
“A warm breakfast comes first,” Mom yelled up the stairs. “Then we’ll hunt up our wooly hats and mittens. You’ll need to wear your snow boots and not just those ropers.”
Light snow continued to fall throughout the morning. The three stomped trails in their backyard and built a small snowman. Ella and Rae-Ann lay down and flapped their arms to make snow angels. Their happy dogs rolled near them on the frosty ground. While watching their fun, Mom picked a torn section of blue fabric from a nearby bush.
“Maybe Heikki Lunta really did help us out,” Ella said with a secret grin, at the sight of the blue material. “Does Grandma know about the snow?”
“I’m sure she does,” said Mom. “Let’s pick her up for a snow ride.”
“What’s that?” asked Rae-Ann. “A car drive on the snowy streets?”
“It’s mostly melted from the roads. I’ll phone her to say that we’re coming, and then I’ll show you my idea.”
Ten minutes later, the laughing trio arrived at Grandma’s apartment building. When she slid into the front seat, she saw what was causing their excitement. Sparkling snowflakes floated into the car from the open moon roof.
Mom pulled back onto the street. People up and down the sidewalks turned in surprise. Echoes of four voices drifted through the winter air, “THANK YOU, HEIKKI LUNTA!”
No matter how many or how few people are seated at your dinner table these days, this could be an excellent time to expand culinary horizons. Check out the scrumptious plant-based recipes at Meatless Monday!
During the school year when leadership in the U.S. changed over from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy, I was a 3rd-grade student on the top floor of the school pictured, above. Already outdated by standards of the day, my building held dark, steep wooden stairs leading up from the first floor and a bell rope hanging over the stairwell, for some lucky kid to pull and dangle from while announcing the start of the day. A chilly cloakroom stood at the top of the stairs, and the classroom was furnished with the old sleigh-style wooden desks, fashioned with inkwells where bottles of ink had once rested.
That same year, some changes had taken place in the leadership of our school, as well. We had a new teacher! Miss Spaude was special for many reasons, I am certain. But the most obvious difference her students noticed right away was that she was bald! This teacher is my favorite and most memorable from elementary school, and I have incorporated her into several of my written works. Happily, my rhyming story, “Miss O’Blair Has Lost Her Hair,” is now published at Storyberries! I hope you will enjoy reading it (for free) as much as I enjoyed writing it, while walking down “memory lane.”
I would like to thank Sue Clancy, writer and illustrator extraordinaire, for the information she generously shared on her blog about Storyberries.
I hope you enjoy the visit to my old school through this post and in the linked story. Just several years after my tale was set, a more “modern” brick building was erected next to this one, and my white frame school was leveled. I felt very sad about that, and I like to keep the memories alive through my writing!
Elections offer parents the opportunity to educate their kids about the U.S. democratic process, and this one is no exception. If you’re struggling with how to dive into the topic with your children, let books be your guide.
We’ve rounded up a selection of children’s books that teach kids about elections and voting. Find stories that explain the political process, celebrate inspiring political figures, shed light on the struggle for voting rights and more.
I hope you’ll find something here to share with your children, grandkids, or students. And don’t forget, voters CAN make a difference toward saving our planet!!!~Becky
As many writers have found, just having more time to work during the pandemic doesn’t necessarily make one more productive. That’s the case for me. So, in efforts to stay busy and earn some money while I’m at it, I’ve taken on many editing projects. In fact, I’ve completed around 100 manuscript edits since March.
Many of my projects have been children’s picture book edits, while others have involved middle-grade fiction and short stories for adults. I found most of these opportunities through online platforms that match freelancers up with clients. The feedback I’ve received from my clients has been very positive, which I find to be quite rewarding. I’m also excited to say that several of the books I edited are now published, such as the following:
I haven’t given up on personal writing and still attend my critique groups online. I’ve also completed several writing projects through these freelance platforms, as well, such as non-fiction articles, blog posts, and children’s leveled readers. All of this has given me something to work toward each day, which you all know can be a struggle right now!
In addition to communication with family and friends, my balcony gardening (and the challenge of the intense Texas sun!) also keeps me grounded. I finally took the plunge and purchased a fountain for my small outdoor space, which I love dearly. It’s no replacement for the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, or St. Mary’s River, but it’s my little piece of heaven.
If you’re feeling helpless about the upcoming election, here’s an idea of something you can do to help! You can help to save democracy by hand writing postcards to Democratic voters in ten critical states to increase turnout in November. They send you the postcards for free. You provide the stamps and mail the cards in October.
Please note, this particular campaign may now be completed, but the website linked above offers additional options. In addition, other organizations are sponsoring similar projects. You can find those by doing a quick Internet search. Either way, it’s easy, won’t cost you much, and could actually get the right voters out to the polls!
Here’s one of my favorite songs by Iris DeMent. The message may be true of life in general, but we don’t have to idly watch “the sun settin’ down” on our country as we know it!