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.
While writing The Corn Whisperer, I learned that some Native American legends are told only during certain seasons. For example, “Coyote Scatters the Stars” is a winter story―told during the time when the earth, animals, and plants are asleep, waiting for the return of the sun.
I learned that Native Americans consider oral stories to be more reliable than written stories. This came as a surprise because I think of verbal stories changing from one person to the next, like the children’s game of Gossip. But this does explain why there are different versions of the same legend. And, more importantly, each version is valued and preserved.
Storytellers are respected elders, such as grandfathers and grandmothers. Children gather around a fire after the evening meal, and the storyteller instructs them to sit straight and listen. The storyteller speaks slowly with a rhythm―giving the words time and space and repeating certain words. Storytellers measure out their stories over the years, reserving some stories for telling near the end of the storyteller’s life.
For Native Americans, storytelling is an important form of communicating wisdom. Told in the context of the storyteller’s culture and location, the story explains the listeners’ place in the universe, how they came to be, or teaches a lesson. Stories are told in an entertaining way―sometimes with a bit of teasing by the storyteller―so the audience will remember the stories and pass them on to the next generation.