Minnesota picture books for bedtime reading — or anytime of the day – Twin Cities

Soon it will be light until 9 p.m., and who wants to go to bed before that? For little ones who do, here are some Minnesota picture books that will help them end lazy summer days dreaming of dancing cats, a brave fish, magical Indian powwows and a helpful mama toad.

“A thousand Purring Cats” by Susan Kedzie (Orange Hat Publishing, $21.99): Bemidji-based Kedzie’s debut picture book looks like a children’s book and little ones will love it. But her poetic text and gorgeous drawings will appeal to adults as well. The author, who holds a master’s degree in plant ecology, brings together her interests in art, science and writing in this book, which began when she learned how much a cat’s purring can help people heal physically. She shows the power of positive relationships as she envisions ordering a thousands cats “of silly cat perfection” to her home: “Cats that skate, and cats that read, / And cats that sneeze. / Cats that paint, fiddle, or float …” anyone who has been owned by a cat will recognize Kedzie’s beautiful depictions of them in all their odd and happy poses. Her work is so lovely you wish you could frame it and hang it on the wall.

“Big Fish Dreams” by Lori Fisher Peelen, illustrations by Consie Powell (Raven Productions of Ely, $9.95): This slender paperback tells two stories. One is about Jon, who wants to catch a big fish since his older and younger brothers hold the title. The other is a poetic story that follows Chia, a salmon on her upriver journey to spawn: “‘Chia, come home,’ the mysterious voice whispers over and over.”

Although this looks like a book very young readers might enjoy, it tells a sad but realistic tale of nature as Chia faces challenges, including a dam wall that has a fish ladder and attacks by an eagle and by a bear. Meanwhile, Jon has fun with his cousins and other family members but worries he won’t get that big fish he dreams about. And then Chia, who has escaped all danger, feels a sharp pain and begins to bleed as Jon’s hook sinks into her. She is the biggest fish Jon has ever caught, but whens he looks into her eyes, he frees her. Chia’s mate fertilizes her eggs and soon both salmon die. Their babies grow strong in the creek until the voice urges them to head for the Pacific and the circle begins again. A page-long history of salmon, explaining their importance, is included as well as a double-page spread showing a healthy watershed that will sustain these fish. Parents will have to decide if this is too sad for very little ones.

“Bowwow Powwow” by Brenda J. Child, translation by Gordon Jourdain, illustrations by Jonathan Thunder (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $16.95): White kids might not know anything about powwows, but for many Indian children, summer is spent at these colorful events, part spectacle, part party, part family get-together, part feast. In this bilingual story (English and Ojibwe), Windy Girl learns from her uncle about long ago powwow traditions — dances, sharing, gratitude. She knows a story, too, about her dog Itchy Boy and the way he dances for a treat and wiggles with joy. At the end of one powwow, Windy Girl falls asleep and dreams of a “bowwow powwow,” where all the grass dancers, jingle-dress dancers, a visiting drum group and veterans in the Grand Entry are dogs celebrating in song and dance. This whimsical tale is enhanced by Jonathan Thunder’s spare, modernistic illustrations that capture the fluid movements of the dancers, human and dream dogs. Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe) is an award-winning painter and digital media artist in Duluth; Gordon Jourdain (Lac La Croix First Nation) teaches at the Misaabekong Ojibwe Language Immersion program for Duluth public schools, and Child (Red lake Ojibwe) is the author of three books for adults and a professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

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