As a member of Southwest Writers, I was happy to give this interview about The Corn Whisperer:
What is your elevator pitch for The Corn Whisperer?
In the book, written for children 7-10, young Charlie is apprehensive about visiting his grandfather who lives at a pueblo in New Mexico. However, Grandfather Joe is a storyteller. He tells Charlie ancient legends to help him live a better life in today’s world. And, as a result, Charlie and Grandfather Joe develop a close relationship.
When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
A realization that cultural myths and legends hold universal truths that apply to everyday life. In this trio of stories, the lessons are about becoming self-sufficient, accepting and valuing change, and forgiveness.
To read the rest of the interview, visit Southwest Writers.
In my book, The Corn Whisperer, young Charlie is introduced to some new foods. In the first story, “The Corn Whisperer,” Grandfather Joe has prepared rabbit stew for dinner. Perhaps this recipe is similar to the dish that Charlie was hesitant at first to taste. But he wound up eating every bite.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-3 pounds of rabbit meat*, cut into bite-size pieces
- Flour for coating the meat
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper
- 2 small cans of green chiles, chopped
- 6 cups of chicken broth or water
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
Dredge rabbit meat with flour. Heat oil in large pan until oil smokes slightly. Place meat in hot oil without crowding pan. Using tongs, turn the meat and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Turn heat to low and cook onion and garlic until onion is wilted. Raise the heat to medium and stir in oregano and cumin. Add salt and pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes until spIces are fragrant.
Add the browned rabbit meat, green chiles, and chicken broth (or water). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer about two hours. Add potatoes and cook an additional 45 minutes. Serve hot.
*Or substitute mutton, lamb, chicken, beef or pork.
The Corn Whisperer has been named a finalist in the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona book awards in the following categories:
- juvenile book
- parenting/family issues book
- young readers book
What readers are saying about The Corn Whisperer:
- “This is a touching story about Charlie and his grandfather, both Native American, who bond after the storyteller, Grandfather Joe tells the boy legends from his childhood. It’s heartwarming to watch the boy grow in love and knowledge as their relationship develops.” –Jan
- “The well-researched and authentic stories are an easy read for children. Includes an afterword and sources.” –LWG
- “Wonderful book that captures the feel of the Southwest and the feel of childhood. Houser brings care and warmth to these native-based stories of life close to nature.” –Robert
Have you read The Corn Whisperer? Add your review to the above on Amazon.
The idea for The Corn Whisperer came about after I learned that the old saying “It is so quiet, you can hear the corn grow” is actually true.
I grew up on a farm where we raised corn, and I confess that I never heard the sound of corn growing. But on a visit to Acoma―one of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos―I noticed a cornfield at the bottom of the hill. This tranquil setting seemed the perfect place to hear corn grow, and kernels of The Corn Whisperer began to take root.
Dr. Fred Below, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana, provided me with an explanation for the sound of corn growing. According to Dr. Below, on still nights when the crop is in the late vegetative state, the area of the stalk between adjacent leaves expands and grows. As the cells of the stalk expand, you can actually hear a popping or cracking sound. The sound comes from the cells that make up the specialized, water-conducting plant tissue that moves water from the root, up through the stalk, and to the leaves. During this stage, the cornstalk can grow up to three inches a day.