Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No ordinary walk to the store, a book review January 17, 2023

Book cover credit: Beaver’s Pond Press

SHE WAS ONLY NINE YEARS OLD, too young to walk alone to the store to buy candy with the $3 clutched in her hand. Eventually, her 17-year-old cousin, Darnella Frazier, agreed to accompany Judeah Reynolds to Cup Foods. That decision on May 25, 2020, would forever change their lives. And the world.

What happened in Minneapolis that evening—the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers—is the subject of a powerful new children’s picture book, A Walk to the Store by Judeah Reynolds as told to Sheletta Brundidge and Lily Coyle.

When I learned of the book’s September 2022 release by St. Paul-based Beaver’s Pond Press, I knew immediately that I needed to read this recounting of Judeah’s witness to Floyd’s death. The cousins arrived on an unfolding scene outside Cup Foods where Floyd lay on the ground next to a squad car, a police officer pressing his knee into the 46-year-old’s neck. Judeah, Darnella and other bystanders pleaded with the police to stop while Darnella recorded the scene on her cellphone and then shared that video online. She won a 2021 Pulitzer Prize for that documentation.

While this book recounts the death of George Floyd from a child’s perspective, it is much more than a basic retelling. The story also reveals the trauma Judeah experienced. The sadness. The difficulty sleeping. The bad dreams. The replaying of Floyd’s killing in her mind.

But this is also a story of strength and hope and about being brave enough to speak up. To say something. To let your voice be heard. To effect change.

Messages like this are included in the book. I photographed this two years ago in small town Kenyon, MN. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2020)

I heard Judeah’s determined voice in her words. I saw it, too, in Darcy Bell-Myers’ art, which reinforces the story with strong, message-filled illustrations. This book is empowering for children who read or hear this story. And it’s equally as impactful for adults.

At the end of the book is a list—How to Help Children Process a Traumatic Event. I appreciate the inclusion of those 10 suggestions given Judeah did, indeed, experience trauma. Her family even moved out of Minnesota.

This LOVE mural by Minneapolis artist Jordyn Brennan graces a building in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. The hands are signing LOVE. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2021)

As I finished reading A Walk to the Store, I considered how ironic that young Judeah wore a colorful shirt emblazoned with the word LOVE as she stood on the sidewalk outside Cup Foods, witness to George Floyd’s murder.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling