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Strawberry Teachings with Jenny Kay Dupuis

Jenny Kay Dupuis shares Heart Berry Bling, a story incorporating the tradition of Anishinaabe beadwork, strawberry teachings, and gender discrimination in the Indian Act into an intimate conversation between grandparent and child.







Listen along:

[2:27] Introduction

Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.

I am a teacher, a librarian, and a fan of kids.

When I was a kid, I used to spend summers at my grandparents’ house in Mountaintop, Pennsylvania. My grandfather owned a hardware store and I would work in the shop, restocking the shelves, exploring the lumber yard, and drinking all the Minute Maid lemonade I could. And I would even earn a few bucks that I could spend at the comic shop when I got home.

Time with grandparents can be special in lots of different ways, but spending time with the person or people who raised your grownup is something I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I grew up.

In today’s featured book, a child spends time with her Granny, bonding over beadwork and the stories and teachings shared around the kitchen table.

[3:26] Book Summary

Matthew: Heart Berry Bling by Jenny Kay Dupuis; illustrated by Eva Campbell.

On a visit to her granny, Maggie is excited to begin her first-ever beading project: a pair of strawberry earrings. However, beading is much harder than she expected! As they work side by side, Granny shares how beading helped her persevere and stay connected to her Anishinaabe culture when she lost her Indian status, forcing her out of her home community--all because she married someone without status, something the men of her community could do freely.

As she learns about patience and perseverance from her granny's teachings, Maggie discovers that beading is a journey, and like every journey, it's easier with a loved one at her side.

In this beautifully illustrated book, children learn about the tradition of Anishinaabe beadwork, strawberry teachings, and gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

[4:28] Meet Our Guest: Jenny Kay Dupuis

Jenny Kay: My name is Jenny Kay Dupuis. I'm a First Nations author, educator, and artist. And I'm the author of Heart Berry Bling.

[4:36] Histories Rooted in Beadwork

Matthew: Listeners, do you have any clothing or bracelets that incorporate beadwork? These beautiful and often handmade works are striking and beading is a skill that’s been passed down for generations.

Jenny Kay: Beading to me is a beautiful art form that's shared across many different cultures, including Indigenous cultures. I grew up actually beading. I learned from many different people how to bead and many different styles of how to bead as well, too. And with that came many different ways of telling stories.

When you think of bead work, the designs themselves, they're all very different. Some of them, you know, you'll see they'll have, like, flower work or floral work. The designs: some of them you might see the outlines of people or maybe different kinds of shapes. And they all tell stories.

What's been shared with me is saying that many of these designs are actually rooted in our histories and, you know, they carry this storywork. And also the layers that exist, or the rows that exist between the beads when we do beadwork, that it also carries our strength as well, like our persistence over time.

So, to me, it's been such an important art form for me to be able to find strength within myself and also to find joy. I've done beaded earrings and bracelets and necklaces and all different hair brats and such, and it's just a, it's such a beautiful art

[6:08] Shining Brilliantly in Powwow Bling

Matthew: Jenny Kay shared that there are many different styles of beadwork and that these styles developed in different parts of the world.

The beadwork that shows up in Heart Berry Bling is called powwow bling.

Jenny Kay: So, powwow bling is sort of a newer style of bead work that's worn by many dancers in our communities. When you go to various powwow events you might see it or various other community celebrations. And many people actually wear it with their everyday clothes today as well, too.

What's neat about it, it's become this cultural expression that we have in communities, but it's mixed often with, you might see the glass beads, but it's mixed with crystals and rhinestones and maybe some pieces of metal or metal work, and it just shines.

It shines so, so brilliantly. It's quite beautiful and it's very, very attractive. And especially when you see it on the dancers when they're competing, it's a beautiful sight.

[7:10] Histories Rooted in Beadwork

Matthew: Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes a writer will see something on TV or read something online and it will spark inspiration. Other times, stories are nestled somewhere back in our memories waiting for the right time to be shared with the world. There’s this wonderful, personal connection Jenny Kay recalled when writing this story.

Jenny Kay: So the story really was written to educate everybody about, sort of, a period of history that really hasn't been talked about amongst young people. And it was created for those young people who are struggling, I guess, when it comes to finding their culture and their identity, and also their community, which they may feel that they're not really part of, for various reasons, could have been torn from them for various reasons as well, too.

And it was also written for those young people who are looking to find joy, especially when everything seems, sort of, so overwhelming and sometimes very difficult or challenging. And I hope that the story actually gives hope to all readers.

When I was writing the story though, I really started reflecting a lot on my relationship that I had with my grandmother when I was a child and my father. My father brought me every single weekend to visit my grandmother in the city and you kind of wonder why is she living in the city when most of her family members are living back in the First Nation community. You have those wonderings. You have those wonderings as well when you walk in the, the apartment and, you know, you open the door and she's on the phone talking a different language that you can't understand, or that you don't know about or hasn't been taught to you. And you wonder why, right?

And I really wanted to bring this story to life, to speak for people to see the importance of, you know, what happens when a culture and a community when there's loss. I thought it was so, so important. But also what happens, too, when a family sits and works together to reclaim that history or to bring back those history and those cultures and how much joy that can bring.

[9:22] BREAK

[9:32] Reverberations of the Indian Act

Matthew: Welcome back.

The idea of reclaiming history might be new to a number of you listening. A conversation in Heart Berry Bling between Granny and Maggie begins as Granny pulls out a number of old photos and images to help draw inspiration for the powwow bling. What follows is a memory that will surely take root in the hearts of readers. That memory is based on conversations shared between Jenny Kay and her grandmother.

Jenny Kay: We had the conversation because I watched, I experienced my family get their status back.

What happened with this story was, is that there was, and, and it's, you know, there's something called the Indian Act. And the Indian Act is this legislation or this law that's in place in Canada that was passed many, many years ago. And it had undergone some changes over time, but it's something that's really complex or quite difficult to understand.

But really quite simply, it impacted a lot of First Nations women and a lot of children as well, too. So, you know, for many generations when you look at it, if you were a First Nations woman and you married somebody who was not First Nations, you lost your rights, you lost your status, and you often had to leave your community as well, too.

So think about that what happens to your connection to community, family, and culture. And it impacted me because it happened to my grandmother, right? So she lost her status. My father couldn't connect with community as well. Her other children couldn't. And we were all kind of grow up, grew up disconnected.

But those laws changed over time. There's a lot of women that spoke up against it, you know, suggesting that it was discrimination. It wasn't right. It was unjust. And they got it changed, this law.

So over time, a lot of the First Nation women and these children started getting their rights back and their connections again, you know, granted back to the communities. So my grandmother got hers back in 1985, along with my father. You know, I got mine back, you know, in 2011.

But when you think about how it impacts you, of not being, you know, growing up in your community. And in my case, it was like I grew up in it. However, I knew that I couldn't stay right because I didn't have a connection. I wouldn't be able to have rights to it as an adult. So I'd have to leave, right? When I, when it came time.

So it, it's a really complicated law that impacted our community, our cultures, and just feeling, you know, feeling at home. Like, could we feel at home?

Matthew: And it sounds like those ripples are just continuing to be felt. That law had done a lot of damage. I can't also imagine that, for your grandmother to marry outside of First Nations, even just that decision, how hard that must have been for her. You love this person, but by making this decision, it's gonna have this impact. It's an awful, awful thing to put anyone in that position.

Jenny Kay: It's a really difficult decision for sure, because yeah, suddenly you're stripped away from your family, from your community, from your lands, from your home, everything that you knew. And you have to relocate to live in an area that's, you know, and restart a life that's new to you.

And you know, in her case it's, you know, it, it was, it was really challenging when it came to that to have that connection. And you have to think what's lost over the years because the generations and the kids that follow, you don't grow up with a lot of that culture anymore, right? It's ease begins to be lost.

So I think it's something that's really important that we do talk about, cuz we talk a lot about the residential school system and how that impacted, you know, the children over time. But this particular, you know, what we call gender discrimination in the Indian Act or like this law had a lot of impact on women and children in our communities. And it still does even today, over time.

[13:39] Strawberry Teachings

Matthew: In Heart Berry Bling, Maggie picks out a strawberry design for her beadwork. This opens up a beautiful conversation with Granny about the strawberry teachings.

Reading from the book, “Granny tells me the strawberry teachings she learned growing up. ‘The heart-shaped fruit shows us that caring is more than a feeling. We can look to the plant–its fruits, flowers, leaves, stems, runners, and roots–to understand how in nature everything is connected.

‘When it’s hard to deal with big changes in our lives, the teachings help us think about what we can do to care for ourselves and others. Truth, love, respect, trust, acceptance, peace, hope. The teachings give life to our bodies. They nourish us,’ says Granny. ‘The strawberry is an amazing gift.’”

Jenny Kay: When I was writing this story, I really wanted to talk about the strawberry teachings. And I know that the strawberry teachings are taught differently to different communities or different people. There's many different teachings, like, that exist out there for strawberry teachings.

But I think with me sharing the strawberry teachings and this story, it really brought to life, hopefully, the idea or the concept of healing from the past. So the pain that does exist and come with the past, and also trying to find a way forward and also how to deal with change, whatever that looks like in someone's life.

Like, you know, I gave the example of Granny and Maggie in this story, but, you know, a young person could also think of what's going on in their life, too, and think about, you know, healing that they're looking for how to deal with change with, if they're struggling for something. And I think we can really draw on those teachings to think about how we can look, you know, towards caring for ourselves and also others when we're struggling, whatever that is.

So in the case of Maggie and Granny, you know, Granny decided to help Maggie find or experience joy in life, right? I call it indigenous joy. Many other people are using that term as well too. But, you know, she tries to teach her indigenous joy by teaching her to bead, so connecting with culture, also at the same time giving her some teachings and some less life lessons as well, too.

So as Maggie's struggling to bead, to learn how to because it's not easy to learn how to bead. She taught her, like, you know, to keep going, you know, no matter how hard it is. Just keep going, persist, move on. That everything, you know, everything that you first learn to do is gonna be hard and it requires a lot of practice and patience, but it does get easier. Like the more that you move your hands and your muscles in certain ways, you know, you're learning how to do that bead work and it just becomes easier.

And eventually, I guess what Granny was trying to say, and, and you know, those teachings have been passed on to me even over time by various people in my life, is saying like, eventually, you know, this love and joy comes out in your… into your work.

So I've always taken that look on life. I create art. I draw. I paint. You know, I bead. I write. You know, I've struggled throughout through a lot in terms of, you know, learning those crafts. But it's something in the end when you, when you look at these products, in the end, you get so much satisfaction and so much joy. So, you know, hopefully that that message is clear to young readers as well, too.

[17:18] Reading Aloud from Heart Berry Bling

Matthew: When asked to read aloud part of her book to us, Jenny Kay chose a moment from the end of the book where Maggie re-articulates the strawberry teachings to herself and to us, the readers. Here’s Jenny Kay.

Jenny Kay: “‘It will be getting dark soon. We better head back now. I want to hear everything you learned on the drive home,’ Dad says.

Granny says that when darkness falls, it always brings with it a new day. Until then we must continue to tell our stories of how we have overcome challenges so that we will understand each other better.

I bead with truth of my heart, hearing the stories from my granny, hopeful the memories of our family continue to be talked about forever.

I bead with love in my heart. Ready to receive the teachings from my granny, which she shares to help our people grow.

I bead with respect and trust in my heart for myself and others, for the ancestors, and for the generations to come.

I bead with acceptance in my heart for those who still sit in silence, struggling to find their way back home.

I bead with peace and hope in my heart.”

[18:24] A Place Brought To Life Carefully and Thoughtfully

Matthew: Jenny Kay talked about writing from real memories with her real grandmother. The illustrations created by Eva Campbell for Heart Berry Bling do great work in making Granny’s place real for readers, and, as it turns out, for Jenny Kay, too!

Jenny Kay: It was such an important journey to work with Eva Campbell, who was the illustrator. And we worked so, so well together in terms of creating this vision and the vision, you know, recreating this, this, I guess you would say, setting right, of what reminded me of, you know, my childhood.

That idea of, you know, walking up the stairs, you know, these, these stairs to my grandmother's, you know, apartment on the second floor of a downtown apartment kind of building. You know, talking through all the colors that you would see, you know, in the, in her apartment and, you know, walking right in and, and immediately seeing this kitchen and with the colors in the kitchen and all the different things that you would see in a kitchen or even the, the living room, which was so, so important when you think of Maggie and Granny developing that connection together and, and choosing, you know, what they're gonna bead together and, and talking about her, her granny's history and past.


ou know, thinking about everything from the old crochet blankets to, you know, the, the design, the old eighties kind of design of the couch and, and you know, the list goes on. There was so much careful thought that went into it. I really wanted people to think or, like, feel that they're sitting in their grandmother's living room and kitchen and learning together. And we also modeled the characters after, um, my own father. So it's also kind of like a tribute, even though it's not my father, the character, iIt's really a tribute to my dad for, for what he did to offer support, um, you know, to bring me to my grandmother's place. And, and to, to, you know, to give me that time, time with her.

And then also thinking of, you know, my grandma looked like too, when you think of the clothing and the, the floral shirts and all that kind of stuff. So the haircuts and… There's a lot that really goes into, when you're creating a book. It's not just writing the words of a story, but it's how do you illustrate it to make it really come to life. And this was so, so important as a tribute to, to my family and, and to our histories as well, too.

[20:50] A Message From Jenny Kay Dupuis

Matthew: It is that time: when we say goodbye for now to Jenny Kay Dupuis.

Oh! I hope you enjoyed this time together every bit as much as I did.

I am grateful to her for sharing the strawberry teachings and for sharing her memories of her grandmother with us. It was challenging to hear about the Indian Act and its lasting impact, but hopeful to hear how women and children in Canada are using their voices to bring about change. And I feel honored to spend this intimate time with Granny and Maggie in the kitchen around the table, beading.

As I prepare my library for the next time it is full of children, and as you prepare for whatever is coming next in your day, I asked Jenny Kay if she had a message she would like me to share with all of you. And, of course, she did!

Jenny Kay: Take time to find joy in everyday life and take time to find strength as well too.

[21:57] Closing

Matthew: The Children’s Book Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.

Jenny Kay? Where can listeners find you?

Jenny Kay: Um, They can find me, follow me on, I guess, Twitter and Instagram, uh, TikTok at, JennyKayDupuis. Yeah. I can also be found on my website

Matthew: Visit for a full transcript of this episode plus some questions that you can use as you think about this episode.

You can also reach out and let me know when you next eat a strawberry and which of the strawberry teachings come back to mind as you enjoy the beautiful heart berry.

Write to me or send me a message at That’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W M-A-K-E-S P-O-D-S at gmail dot com.

Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (

Our music is by Podington Bear.

Podcast hosting by Libsyn.

You can support the show and buy me a coffee at

And always, don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found. And Jordan is a buddy of mine. I love cheering her on and cheering this show.

And on that note…

Be well. And read on.

End Of Episode

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