Friday, September 28, 2007

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush (Genre: Folk Literature)

Bibliographic Data
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: April 16, 1996
ISBN: 978-0698113602

Plot Summary
A young boy, Little Gopher, is encouraged in his art to paint after he receives a vision through a dream. This tale tells how the sunset is created through the art of this boy, later a man, using a white buckskin canvas and the various flowers (Indian paintbrush) available in his area, which he had not previously been able to achieve. The story tells how Indian paintbrush came to grow in the southwestern United States.

Critical Analysis
The illustrations in this story truly capture and express the spirit of the tale. My children have sat on my lap and at my knee listening to the tale of Little Gopher since infancy. The story is also engaging. It tells of an unathletic boy who will achieve his own fame through the arts.

The character of Little Gopher is flawed, and many children will connect with Little Gopher’s inability to excel in athletics or in a specific area. Demonstrating his human frailties allows children to see that everyone has his or her own unique talents.

Additionally the southwestern United States’ setting may help students to tie into their own geographic awareness.

Review Excerpts
From Publishers Weekly
In this companion to The Legend of the Bluebonnet, Little Gopher is smaller than the rest of the children in his tribe and can't keep up with those who ride, run, wrestle or shoot with bows and arrows. But, he has a talent of his own: he is an artist. When he grows older, a Dream-Vision comes to him: a young Indian maiden and her grandfather tell him that he will paint pictures of the great warriors with colors as pure as the evening sky. Little Gopher's paintings never satisfy him because the colors are dull and dark, but he keeps trying. In the night, a voice tells him how to find paint-filled brushes; Little Gopher locates them, and they become brilliantly colored flowers known as Indian Paintbrush. This tale is related with deceptive simplicity by dePaola; he enhances the plainness of the story with his primitive illustrations, and, like Little Gopher, he finds inspiration in the colors of the sunset. Ages 2-7.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  • Use for lesson on explanation myths of how things have come to be.
  • Use in an art lesson to tie in to color blending.
  • Use for inspiration to those students who lack a skill to demonstrate that each person finds his or her talents.

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