It’s a story that was too good to pass up.
University of Minnesota professor Michael Osterholm bought a cornfield in Iowa with the intention to turn it into a prairie. But when a neighbor told him he’d once caught a brook trout in that very spot, Osterholm determined to find the creek that had long been filled in with dirt. Using an old photograph, he marked the creek’s path in the field, and then excavated the earth, discovering the original creek bed. He built it up with rocks and native prairie grasses. It was a labor of love, with no promise of a return.
And the water remembered.
So, too, did the insects. And the frogs and birds. And the sculpin, who swam in from a connecting spring. Osterholm re-introduced brook trout, and they have flourished along with the other flora and fauna, just as it had been for thousands of years. It is now called Brook Creek.
When Caldecott Award-winning author Jacqueline Briggs Martin heard Osterholm’s story, she wanted to spread the word to the next generation. Together with illustrator Claudia McGehee and University of Minnesota Press, she brought it to life in Creekfinding.
“Children are naturally outdoors people, at least the children I know. So I wanted them to know of this outdoors story. I also wanted them to know a story of ‘fixing,’ of restoring what was lost,” she says. “For me there is something wonderful in the fact that once Mike restored the creek, the entire ecosystem re-built itself. He dug the creek and added the rocks and the prairie grasses along the bank. He did not add the insects, the frogs, the birds, or the sculpin. They came back all on their own.”
Martin hopes the story will stay with children and their parents as they go out into the world. “Maybe they will take special notice of what is blooming, buzzing, or chirping near the waterways they visit,” she says. “And I hope, as Mike Osterholm says in the author's note, that the book will give them a sense of possibility, that they, too, can make a difference in the natural world.”
Meet Michael Osterholm, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Claudia McGehee at a Red Balloon Bookshop book launch event, 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 23.