Niles author to inspires passion for history, native culture in new children’s publication

NILES — During yearly visits to Mackinac Island, Niles author Doris Holik Kelly finds herself continuously inspired by the geography, history and native stories that are part of the Michigan landmark.

Last summer, Holik Kelly published her latest book inspired by the area: “The Gift of Summer Rain.” The story is a retelling of the Odawa legend of the Arch Rock. Lori Taylor illustrates Holik Kelly’s book. A coloring and activity book accompanies the story.

Nichole Syrette, of Niles, is a friend to Holik Kelly and a member of the Ojibwe tribe – a sibling tribe to the Odawa. Syrette’s native name is Oniizhi Mukwa. She described Holik Kelly’s rendition as accurate and said she did a “beautiful” job retelling of the native legend.

“I really liked it because there are not a lot of true interpretations of native stories,” Syrette said. “It is very hard to interpret from way back when they started. I think it is really important for people to learn about these things the right way.”

“The Gift of Summer Rain” is about Summer Rain, the daughter of Big Thunder and Bright Lightning. When Summer Rain falls in love with the sky spirit North Wind, her family tries to keep them apart. Her grief causes her to cry tears that erode Arch Rock – a famous landmark that stands on Mackinac today. Summer Rain returns to visit her family and nurture the environment every time there is a storm.

“When you get Bright Lightning, North Wind and Summer Rain, you get erosion,” Holik Kelly said. “I wanted to turn the tale into kind of a science lesson for kids. It’s the same [legend], it’s just expanded.”

In addition to the story, the back of the book features various science facts compiled about the plants and animal life that make up the Mackinac area.

Earlier this winter, the Fort de Buade Museum in St. Ignace used “The Gift of Summer Rain” to share during a program for native children about their heritage.

Syrette said it is important to connect a new generation with native stories.

“Native language and culture are being forgotten,” Syrette said. “It is very wonderful that she is making this for children.”

Growing up, Holik Kelly loved to leaf through her grandfather’s stacks of encyclopedias, which were piled around one of his favorite chairs. She immersed herself in stories about local history and any book she could find.

Holik Kelly is a Brandywine High School class of 1967 graduate. She continued her studies at Southwestern Michigan College, where she earned an associate’s degree in art. She published her first children’s book “The Mystery of the Copper Turtle” in 2009. “The Gift of Summer Rain” is her fourth book. One commonality is that the stories are steeped in Michigan history. Holik Kelly said she hopes the book intrigues children in their local history.

“Michigan history is just so, so, interesting,” Holik Kelly said.

Holik Kelly is already working on her next story based in the Traverse City area. Until then, she hopes that local schools will take an interest in sharing the story.

The book is available for purchase at beartrackpress.com for $16.95. The accompanying coloring and activity book is $6.

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