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The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush



Last updated Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Author: Tomie dePaola
Date of Publication: 1988
ISBN: 0399215344
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2007

Synopsis: From Publisher's 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.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  This is a folktale. What is a folktale? Do you know any other examples of folktales?
•  Find on a map the Plains states, from Wyoming down through Texas.
•  When do you think this story took place?
•  What do you think an Indian paintbrush is?
•  The author’s note says that Indian paintbrush is the state flower of Wyoming. Do you know what the state flower of California is? [the golden poppy] Have you seen poppies?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What are you special at—what is your talent? Do you know yet? Maybe you’ll find out later. What do you enjoy doing?
•  What are other members of your family good at; what are their talents?
•  What does Little Gopher like to do? How is it related to his talent?
•  Have you ever had a dream that might relate to your future, which seems real?
•  What are some of the colors we see in nature?

Craft ideas:
•  Bring ahead brown paper grocery bags, or use construction paper, and cut a shape that looks like an animal skin. Draw on it a picture in the style of the book of your family doing something you enjoy.
•  Draw a picture of the hillside covered with flowers. Draw the sunset behind the hillside.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!