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.
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.
I grew up on a farm where we raised sweet corn. When the cornstalks were tall and the kernels were young, we gathered corncobs in their tightly-wrapped husks. Their silks were dry and bristly. I recall the swish of leaves when walking between the rows of corn and the crisp snap of a corncob breaking from the stalk. It wasn’t a chore to gather corn for the supper table. The result was a platter of steaming hot, tender ears of corn slathered in butter. The particular variety of sweet corn we raised was called Kandy Korn.
Today, there are hundreds of varieties of corn, which come in many colors. However, the most common varieties are sweet corn, dent corn, flint corn, and popcorn.
Flint corn (Zea mays indurata) has a high nutrient value and gets its name from having a hard outer layer―hard as flint. This flint variety is resistant to freezing, tolerates drought, and favors the sandy soil of the Southwest. It is often dried and used to make hominy. One multi-colored type of flint corn is called Indian corn or calico corn.
Dent corn or field corn actually has a dent or dimple in the top of the kernel. It has a higher, softer starch content than flint corn. It is primarily grown as feed for livestock or the production of ethanol but can also be ground for flour, grits, or cornmeal.
Popcorn is a completely different variety―a special type of flint corn. Each kernel holds a tiny droplet of water tightly enclosed in a hard shell. When the hard kernels get hot, the water droplets inside get hot and turn into steam. Pressure builds up and―pop! The steam disappears into the air, leaving behind a pile of fluffy-white, crunchy snacks.
Although there are hundreds of kernels on an ear of corn, there is always an even number of rows.
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.