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Teaching Your Children History through Literature

Our Books Make History Come Alive

The Journals of Kevin Murphy (for ages 11-15) is the ideal way to get kids excited about history. In these historical novels, Kevin Murphy remembers the adventures he had with his friends growing up. The books can be used for both reading arts and social studies. See our Free Study Guides, which give the teacher many historical and literary questions to be put to the text.

The first volume is the award-winning Summer of the Bear in which Kevin explores the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan, in an authentic birch bark canoe. Kevin's best friend, Brock Tomlinson, introduces him to Jean-Baptiste Vaillant, a would-be voyageur (Canadian canoe man). Jean-Baptiste takes the boys on a canoe trip down the Pigeon River.

When they camp in the forest (under their canoe, of course), they encounter the Ojibwe boy, Mickie Mamânsinam, who has been inadvertently caught in Jean-Baptiste's snare. Mickie is looking for a bearwalker, who is out to wrong his sister. Jean-Baptiste decides to help Mickie, and the boys follow the visionary Mickie (a member of the Bird Clan) into the woods. The story explores the meaning of the Native American term 'bearwalker' and the kinds of bearwalkers each of the boys becomes. It is a bildungsroman in which Kevin becomes a man.

It is an historical novel because the history of the Canadian canoe men or voyageurs and the Ojibwe runs throughout the text. Awarded the Michigan State History Award for books for children and young adults. Individual copies available now on demand in paperback: $13.95 + $4.50 postage and handling. Contact the author at leigharrathoon@gmail.com for a complete discount schedule and for information about Talks with the Author on Skype. Also soon available in electronic form.

The second volume of The Journals of Kevin Murphy is called The Son of Fireheart. In this book, Kevin visits his Aunt Clare in Santa Cruz, California. One morning he chances upon an injured Esselen Indian boy, Esteban, on the deserted beach. The two boys become friends and spend time together, exploring the coast from Santa Cruz to Big Sur.

Gradually Kevin discovers that Esteban is homeless and that the only thing he has ever read is the section of Spiderman featuring Fireheart, the Native American Industrialist, who turns into a puma when he gets mad. One day, Kevin gallantly intervenes when a teenage girl is being teased by a local gang. He rescues the girl, only to infuriate the gang leader, Ignacio. As a result of Kevin's interference, Esteban, who knows the gang well, is severely beaten. Eventually, Esteban, Kevin, and Julio, Esteban's friend, find themselves in the midst of a forest fire in the Santa Lucia mountains, set by Ignacio's gang.

The focus of the story is Esteban's passage from being the "Son of Fireheart," a person filled with "puma"-like rage, into a loving, productive member of his tribe. Individual copies available now in paperback: $13.95 + $4.50 postage and handling. Contact the author at leigharrathoon@gmail.com for a complete discount schedule and for information about Talks with the Author on Skype. Also soon available in electronic form.

The third volume of The Journals of Kevin Murphy is Eagle from the Dawn. In this last book of the series, to date, the narrator visits his uncle Matt's ranch in Grant, Montana on his way to the U. of C. at Berkley. Matt shares ownership of the ranch with Jesse Taksoukt, a Nez Perce, expert in breeding Appaloosas. Peter, Jesse's son, and Kevin follow the route of Lewis and Clark on horseback, across the Rockies.

Kevin's uncle gives him the mustang, Tipyahlanah Kaupu (eagle from the dawn) as a high school graduation present. The horse escapes when Peter and Kevin arrive at the place in Idaho where Tipyahlanah was born. The rest of the story is about Kevin's learning to let go (in a Nez Perce sweat house) and learning to love (he falls in love with a Nez Perce/Irish girl at a Powwow), and his eventual reunion with Tipyahlanah Kaupu, when he has matured enough to love the horse exactly the way he is, rather than as some idealized creature the horse could never be.

Besides learning to let go and love, Kevin learns all about the Nez Perces, their history and their culture, and the animals in the Rockies. He also develops a realistic picture of Lewis and Clark and the times in which they lived. Individual copies available now in paperback: $13.95 + $4.50 postage and handling. Contact the author at leigharrathoon@gmail for a complete discount schedule, and for information about Talks with the Author on Skype. Also soon available in electronic form.

For a reader 18-25, especially one thinking seriously about marriage, Indian Summer fits the bill. Indian Summer is a spinoff of The Journals of Kevin Murphy. It is about Katie Murphy, Kevin's little sister, when she is a sophomore at Stanford University. Her best friend, Rachel, is a full-blood Cheyenne. Katie is majoring in French; Rachel wants to be a teacher for her people. Rachel lives at Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, the Indian Theme House at Stanford. Stanford is built upon the homelands of the Ohlone Indians. Katie falls in love with an Ohlone Indian man, who is studying to be a psychologist for his people. Rachel, on the other hand, falls for a very blond Swedish anthropologist.

One of these two couples makes a very successful marriage; the other relationship ends on a bitter-sweet note. Set against the California Coast, from San Francisco to L.A., the Cheyenne Reservation and the Winddancer Ranch in Montana, the book explores what ingredients make an ideal marriage and when it's best to call a halt to a relationship. The reader also learns about Ohlone and Cheyenne customs. Individual copies available now in paperback: $13.95 + $4.50 postage and handling. Also soon available in electronic form. Contact the author at leigharrathoon@gmail.com for a complete discount schedule, and for information about Talks with the Author on Skype.

Supporting Material

leigharrathoon@gmail.com 
248 218 0356

Study Guides

Look through our study guides for ideas on how to incorporate these books into your class learning activities.

Readings

Listen to excerpts from some of the books, read by author Leigh Arrathoon.

Reviews

See what others have to say about these books in reviews.

Coming Soon!

Jody's Michigan Adventures has sold well over 100,000 copies here in Michigan because it is an easy read for a child between the ages of 8 and 10. It is also kid-sized. The print is large, ragged right, and unfamiliar words are defined in the text.

Each page has a facing lively, color illustration. When each page ends, the book can be laid aside until the reader is ready to read the next page.

The books are narrated by a boy, who wants to become an historian when he grows up. He decides to begin his career by writing about the family vacations. His mother convinces him to include his little sister's flights of imagination about the adventures of her toy mouse.

The boy, Kevin Murphy, is annoyed at this, not realizing that every writer needs to have both imagination and discipline in order to be successful. The Michigan history is state-of-the art, and the little sister, Katie's stories are charming. The books can be used for both reading arts and social studies. See our Free Study Guides, which give the teacher many historical and literary questions to be put to the text. New edition available in 2014.

For children between the ages of 10 and 12, the author is reworking a beautiful, big chapter book called Magical Adventures. In this book, containing a frame tale (introduction, conclusion, and stories interwoven with the nine main chapters), Kevin Murphy has become a successful novelist.

One day, his little sister, Katie, arrives on his doorstep with a manuscript of her own: the Wizard of Paint Creek, which she insists he weave into a new book about their childhood adventures. She leaves Jody, the mouse with her brother to help him remember. Groggy, Kevin leans back in his chair. Suddenly the mouse, the Wizard, and their childhood flood his mind, and he writes the book. The book can be used for both reading arts and social studies.

See our Free Study Guides, which give the teacher many historical and literary questions to be put to the text. New edition available in 2014.

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