When I was a kid in Michigan, my father’s job required travel, and he was rarely home early in the evening for our nightly rituals. On the rare occasion that he was, however, Dad usually told us marvelous bedtime stories. We were especially enthralled by his tales about the Teenie Weenies. Not sure about my older sister or younger brother, but I suspected that they actually lived under the large willow tree in our back yard.
I had no idea at the time that my father’s ideas came from comic strips and picture books about these characters, in addition to product advertising, like the examples below, that also contained short stories about these little people. His grandchildren remember listening to these entertaining adventures of the Teenie Weenies, as well.
Years later, I found myself exploring the “nostalgia” section of a used bookstore near downtown Dallas, and there it was…a picture book that I never knew existed! The Teenie Weenies Under the Rosebush, written and illustrated by William Donahey, was not in great shape, but I didn’t care. Besides, it was marked $2, and I probably would have paid $20 for that memory.
That purchase prodded me toward more research about the author and his works. As luck would have it, not too long after the bookstore expedition, a weekend collectibles sale at a Texas mall turned up my charming Monarch toffee and peanut butter magazine ads shown above that each sport a story about the Teenie Weenies. It wasn’t until the advent of ebay, after I had moved back to Michigan, that I realized just how many vintage products besides books are out there wearing the likenesses of those intriguing little people…and often at a very large price tag!
The synchronicity doesn’t end there. I knew that William Donahey and his wife, Mary, who was also an author, were from the Midwest. In my internet research, I had read about a North Woods vacation cabin, of sorts, that the Reid-Murdoch/Monarch company gave the couple as a gift. It was fashioned after the company’s pickle barrels, for which Mr. Donahey had done some ads. The structure was made up of two sections, with the larger part rising two stories and connected to a shorter section that served as a kitchen.
Evidently the Donahey’s fame and popularity drew too many visitors to the vacation home, which became quite a headache for the pair. After about a decade, they gave the building away to a merchant in a nearby town and built a more private log cabin. What I didn’t know was that the location where the Pickle Barrel House ended up wasn’t far from where I had moved in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A pleasant spring drive about fifteen years back ended up in the picturesque village of Grand Marais, on the shores of Lake Superior. Lovely bay with bobbing sailboats, silvery vintage diner near the Square for a fun lunch, and…what was that strange structure as we rounded the corner? A unique wooden building shaped like a barrel! There I am, below, holding my sweet dog, Boo Boo, in front of the somewhat peeling Pickle Barrel House. Since that day, the Grand Marais Historical Society has restored the house and made it into a museum. I regret that I didn’t make it back to see the results, especially since life finds me, once again, living in Texas. ~Becky
For many years, I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I wasn’t a native “Yooper,” however, and never heard of “Heikki Lunta” while living in the Lower Peninsula. In the past, people had come to the U.P. from many different countries to work in the copper mines. There’s still an especially recognizable Finnish influence in many areas.
When I first heard of Heikki Lunta, I assumed that it was a mythological Finnish goddess or god. I was on the right track, but not quite right. Ukko is a god of weather, and Vellamo is a goddess of storms. There was no supreme being specifically for snow, which seems surprising, given that’s such a snowy part of the world.
Fast forward to 1970. As the story goes, U.P. promoters for an upcoming snowmobile race were concerned because not much snow had yet fallen that winter. A record was aired on a local radio station in which the singers pleaded with “Heikki Lunta,” a snow god of sorts, to send more of the white stuff. The whole idea took off, or “snowballed,” you might say.
These days, businesses like this one on the right often put up signs asking that deity for more snow. By spring, there are sometimes signs asking him to stop! At least one town in the Upper Peninsula has named its yearly winter festival after Heikki Lunta.
What does all of this have to do with my story being published, you might ask. Now living in Texas, I’m struck with the fact that many of the children here (and sometimes the adults) wish dearly that it would snow!
A few winters back, we did get a pretty healthy dusting, here in the North Dallas suburbs. My two youngest granddaughters were thrilled, and my daughter let them stay home from school to play in the snow. That’s the day my idea for a meeting of reality and myth, in “Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta” was conceived. I’m thrilled to report that my fictional story for kids and families, alike, now appears in U.P. Reader #3.
World Water Day returns this week, along with the first day of spring. Renewal, rebirth, hope. Today’s children know all about safe tap water, bottled drinking water wherever they turn, a shower or bath whenever they want, trips to the beach, lawn sprinklers, and swimming pools. How familiar are they, however, with places in the world where clean drinking water is not a given? What do they know about activists who fight to keep our waters safe? Check out the following amazing books that can help to get the conversation started!
From BookPage in 2010:
“Few children can imagine walking eight hours a day or digging by hand deep into the mud, just to find water for their family. But the backbreaking work under the hot African sun is just a typical day for 11-year-old Nya, growing up in Sudan circa 2008. She rarely complains; it would do no good.
Salva, also 11, is from a prominent, upper-class Sudanese family. As the Second Sudanese Civil War erupts in the mid-1980s, Salva is forced to run as bombs hit his village. Fleeing quickly and leaving his family behind, he joins up with bands of strangers—all headed out of their war-torn homeland to Ethiopia.
Difficult as it may be, both Nya and Salva come to accept their own long walks to water—each peppered with challenges and each tied to family and survival. Nya’s sister becomes very ill; Salva loses several loved ones. But Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park’s brilliant dual narrative provides a soulful insight into both journeys.
Both Salva and Nya are urged on by their individual reserves of hope—for a better tomorrow, a better future—but neither really knows what lies beyond. The book’s denouement, however, intertwines their stories in a soul-satisfying and optimistic way.
A Long Walk to Water is based on Salva Dut’s true story of perseverance amid adversity. But beyond that, it’s a touching narrative about strife and survival on a scale most American readers will never see.”
Watch an interview with Salva and the author, Linda Sue Park.
Recommended by AICL (American Indians in Children’s Literature) in 2018:
“The ‘about’ page tells us that the author, Aslan Tudor, was eight and nine years old during the period depicted in the book, and a citizen of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. Information provided is his first-hand account of time spent at the camps when he was there in 2016.
Told from the point of view of a child, Young Water Protectors is a rare kind of story of a unique period of activism with Native people from so many nations standing together to fight a company exploiting people and hurting earth’s resources.
There’s a lot to think about, packed into this slim book. Tudor touches on the school at the camp, and what he learned there but he also notes that activity at some of the construction sites wasn’t safe. It was safer for kids to stay in camp. For readers who want more information about that, adults can fill in the gaps according to what they know about the reader.” (Photographs by Kelly Tudor)
What can we each do to spread the word and help ensure safe water for all? Write, read, listen, draw, share, march, donate, protest, and be good examples!
This week is also the return of my own birthday, and I wrote this blog post toward fulfilling a personal goal for the year. Water is truly life. ~Becky
Girls and women not allowed to wear pants or ride bikes? What a wonderful story to grab kids’ attention about equal rights and opportunities! ~Becky
About the Holiday Instituted in 1911 and celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, International Women’s Day was recognized by the United Nations in 1975. In 1996, honoring the holiday under a united theme was established and this tradition has been followed ever since. During the 100th anniversary of International Woman’s Day in 2011, President […]
Visit Celebrate Picture Books to read about this fun book related to punctuation and writing! ~Becky
About the Holiday This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can […]
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an important reminder to prepare for the challenge of exploring this topic with children. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum publishes a substantial list of books to share with kids. The Anne Frank House and Museum in Amsterdam offers educational materials geared toward young people of varying ages. I hope that you’ll check out both of these links for some helpful information! ~Becky