Runs With the Stars is a simple story with a deeper message.
On the surface, the story conveys a series of interactions between a grandfather and a grandchild. The child is impatiently waiting for their favourite mare, Star, to have her foal.
But Star isn’t just any horse. She is an Ojibwe horse. And as the day for the foal’s birth approaches, the grandfather shares the story of the Ojibwe horses with his grandchild—how, at one time, they were as plentiful as deer in the woods, and were valued by the Ojibwe people, who used them for travel, hauling wood, and trapping. Over time, more and more people turned to snow machines instead of horses for utility, and “each year, the herds grew smaller until the thunder of hooves in the forest faded away.” By the time Grandfather was a boy, “there were only four Ojibwe Horses left at Lac La Croix.”
As the “Afterword” of the story states, the government planned to destroy the remaining horses, perceiving them as a nuisance. But Fred Isham, a former resident of Lac La Croix, rescued them. He took them away and began the painstaking process of rebuilding the Ojibwe horses’ numbers. As the herd grew, the work of preserving the breed was carried on by individuals breeding the horses in small groups.
The grandfather in the story, who has a small group of eight Ojibwe horses, is depicted as one of these people. As he tells his grandchild, “Growing up, your mother never knew the horses. I didn’t want you to grow up without them, too.”
Lenny Lishchenko’s attractive illustrations provide a pleasing accompaniment to the text, supporting it without distracting. Some sections are factual, while others are more conceptual or imaginative (such as a scene from the grandchild’s dream), and the artwork used feels right for each context.
One interesting aspect of the story is that the child is referred to as “Noozhis,” which means grandchild, rather than by a given name. The illustrations leave the child’s gender open for interpretation. This enables children of any gender to connect with story’s protagonist.
The authors provide an additional tie-in for young readers, connecting the grandchild to the story of the horses: “The horses were small, but strong,” the grandfather says. “Like me?” “Like you.” This connection occurs in other spots in the story also.
Runs with the Stars is entertaining and touching in its own right. It also offers a glimpse of history and an acknowledgement of the dedicated efforts of those who are working to bring back the Ojibwe horse. In addition to being offered in an English version, Runs with the Stars is also available in a dual-language edition, English and Anishinaabemowin.
About the Author
Darcy Whitecrow is Ojibwe and Dakota; he is a member of the Seine River First Nation band in Northwestern Ontario, where he lives. Darcy practices traditional lifestyles like trapping, fishing, and ricing, as well as traditional spirituality in both the Midewiwin and Sundance traditions. With his partner, Kim, they have started a non-profit, Grey Raven Ranch, where they have been raising and caring for the Ojibwe Horses for the last decade to help preserve the breed and the tradition of symbiotic interaction with the Ojibwe people.
Heather M. O’Connor is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer based in Peterborough, Ontario. She first learned about Ojibwe Horses while writing for the Ontario Parks blog and quickly became obsessed.
Lenny Lishchenko is not a boy. She is an illustrator, graphic designer, and comics maker who will never give up the chance to draw a good birch tree. Ukrainian-born and Canadian-raised, she’s interested in telling stories that people remember years later in the early mornings, when everything is quiet and still. She is based out of Burlington, Ontario.
- Publisher : Second Story Press (May 3 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 32 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1772602388
- ISBN-13 : 978-1772602388