The Case of Windy Lake

by Michael Hutchinson, Second Story Press, 160 pages

The Elders call the four cousins the Mighty Muskrats, because they wrestle, play, argue, and laugh like a family of muskrats. Otter, Atim, Sam, and Chickadee live in the Windy Lake First Nations in Canada.

They help their grandfather, a respected Elder, and hunt for adventure. When an elderly archeologist goes missing, the members of the nation feel torn between joining the rescue effort and their feelings of betrayal at the hands of another ‘bone digger’ decades ago.

The Mighty Muskrats decide to take on the task of locating the missing man, and they’ll have to use everything at their disposal. The Internet AND the wisdom of their elders. Readers will cheer for the four cousins as they piece together the clues and use their skills to help the rescue effort.

Will they find the archeologist before he dies from exposure in the bush? And how can they aid the effort AND keep the Nation’s sacred sites sacred?

Don't miss the first book of the new Mighty Muskrats series for young readers! @Mike_Hutchins0n writes the perfect mystery for middle-grade readers! #ownvoices #firstnations #amreading Click To Tweet

Why I Love this Book

I teach at a school for Native Americans, and we’re always desperate to find good stories written by Natives. I can’t wait to tell our librarian about this book. Although the story takes place on a First Nations Reserve in Canada, our students will relate to just about everything in the book—with the exception of the Canadian colloquialisms, such as ‘Kay,’ for o.k.

I loved the Boxcar Children, but this new series will appeal to today's young readers. #mystery #caseofwindylake #netgalley

When I first started teaching, I loved to read The Boxcar Children out loud to my English as a Second Language students. After reading the first book, students usually got caught up in the series and read more on their own.

The problem with the Boxcar Children series? The children lived pretty protected lives and only related experiences common to privileged white kids (despite the fact that they had no parents). Their self-resiliency and problem-solving always drew me (and my students in).

The Case of Windy Lake heralds the start of a new kind of Boxcar Children. Four kids who use their ingenuity, the wisdom of their Elders, and their relationship with each other to solve mysteries. Instead of a boxcar, they have a clubhouse in an old school bus. Their grandpa isn’t a rich man, he’s a tribal Elder who heats his house with a wood stove.

If You Loved the Boxcar Children, Give this Title a Read!

Middle-grade and younger young adult readers will relate to the characters. The reading level averages about 3rd-4th grade—perfect for older students with a lower reading level. Parents will appreciate the lack of violence. A few of the secondary characters use mild expletives (damn and hell).

Hutchinson has moments of pure beauty in language as he describes things in nature. These moments help offset the few repetitions (the two paragraphs about government housing read almost word-for-word).

Native readers will appreciate the juxtaposition of modern with ancient and the conclusions the characters draw about the marriage of the old ways and modern society. Non-Native readers will find the characters and setting engaging. Hopefully, reading the book will engender more questions than answers.

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.