“Johnny’s Pheasant” written by Cheryl Minnema and illustrated by Julie Flett is a story inspired by the author’s younger brother Johnny and her grandmother. In the story, the two characters happen upon a pheasant lying in the grass. Grandma and Johnny have two very different reactions to the pheasant which leads to a surprise at the end.
If you are a primary teacher seeking to fill your classroom library with Own Voice authors and illustrators you should include this 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award winner. I appreciate that the story is centered around a Native American boy who is doing things that kids tend to do, not celebrating a holiday or teaching about a part of history.
As we read the story the first time, second grade readers were surprised that many had opposing feelings regarding the same scene within the book. Aria said, “I think it’s kind of sad at the end. The bird flies away. He leaves one feather behind. It’s kind of sad to think they had twenty minutes with this bird and they already had a connection and the bird flew away.”
But Noah had a different experience, “I think it was scary at the start because the bird may not have been alive. And then I got happy at the end.”
These different feelings inspired us to read the story a second time, this time tracking the feelings of Johnny, Grandma and the reader.
Digging deeper into character feelings allowed us to better understand the perspectives within the story.