Book Review: “How Not To Catch Fish and Other Adventures of Iktomi”

Mandy Noel
Mandy Noel

On a retreat to my hometown over winter break, I stumbled across a gem nestled in the Native American Trading Co. The shop is located in the historic downtown of Hannibal, Mo. on the western bank of the mighty Mississippi. Much like Ashland’s own Sacred World, Hannibal’s Native American Trading Co. is full of authentic American Indian art, jewelry, music, books and more.

My dad and I were searching for gifts for my two little cousins in St. Louis. Since they live in the city, some of the only chances they get to be immersed in nature are on camping and fishing trips with my parents, who instilled in me a love for the outdoors at a young age as well. My dad, the father of two girls, loves to spoil his nephew with things that his parents cringe at the thought of, such as pocket knives, slingshots, and on this particular outing, a tomahawk. To even out the spoiling, I found an agate night light for my girl cousin and the perfect book for them both.

The book is titled “How Not to Catch Fish and Other Adventures of Iktomi” and included a bonus CD written and read by Joseph M. Marshall III with music by John Two-Hawks and illustrated by Joseph Chamberlain. My cousins are 12 and 9-years-old, but this book is suitable for almost all ages especially with the accompanying CD. Some of the vocabulary is a tad advanced, but I like this about the book because children can figure out the meaning of the word based on its context. At the first difficult word readers come across, the author prompts the reader to grab a dictionary — “Then something moved again down in the water. Iktomi squinted his eyes, he had to because he was astigmatic (look it up). Squinting did the trick because he saw the something that was moving down in the water.”

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Iktomi is a little rascal always getting himself into trouble in the pursuit of food, because he is “not a farmer, not a hunter, and certainly not a fisherman … Instead, he thought of himself as an opportunist.” As Iktomi tries to trick other animals into giving him a meal, he learns lessons the hard way after every adventure.

While most of these stories are set in the prairie, they can still be applicable to this area. For instance, some of the animals he comes across are foxes, ravens, meadowlarks, red-wing blackbirds, beavers, bear, black tail deer, a goose and a mouse, all animals that can be found in this area. Plants that are mentioned include choke cherry, ash and oak trees, also all in this area.

I had trouble finding another copy of this book online for a descent price, but if you’re able to scour one up, I highly recommend it. For now, listen to this audio clip of one of Iktomi’s many adventures. Enjoy!

More information on this book:

Published by Circle Studios (200 Medicine Way Eureka Springs, AK 72632)

ISBNs: 0-9768022-0-1, 9780976802204


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