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The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush (1988)

by Tomie DePaola

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,226813,300 (4.12)11
Little Gopher follows his destiny, as revealed in a Dream-Vision, of becoming an artist for his people and eventually is able to bring the colors of the sunset down to the earth.

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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
This legend is the story of how the flower, the indian paintbrush, came to be.The colors and illustrations in this book are also beautiful. I especially like the illustrations of the sunset. ( )
  AlissaAnneMay | Feb 10, 2022 |
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
This was a well-written origin story that was well-developed and easy to follow. It really built up the protagonists character and was insightful to his culture. I liked that it developed the character from being a young boy to a young man, developing him in life. It discusses the influence of his ancestors as they guided him to paint his dream paintings, thus leading him to create the most beautiful sunset. I thought this was a very beautiful story for this reason as it detailed a recurring belief. ( )
  hmolay | Mar 24, 2020 |
Summary: This is an old Plains Indian legend about the Indian Paintbrush wildflowers that bloom in the spring in Texas, often alongside bluebonnets. Little Gopher is left out because he doesn’t have the athletic ability of the other boys, but he does have a talent for painting. He had a dream vision that one day he would paint a beautiful sunset and the brushes full of the right colors were miraculously provided. After he painted the sunset, he dropped the brushes along and trail and Indian paintbrushes grew.[return][return]The beautiful illustrations add a lot of value to this picture book. The story also delivers a moral: be true to yourself and don’t give up in the face of adversity.[return][return][return]Reading Level: 2.5[return][return]Genre: Traditional literature – legends & myths
  kristi_test_01 | Sep 12, 2019 |
Little Gopher follows his destiny as revealed in a Dream-Vision of becoming an artist for his people and eventually is able to bring the colors of the sunset down to earth.
  NMiller22 | Aug 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
In this adaptation of the legend of the Indian Paintbrush flower… The story follows Little Gopher, a Native boy (no tribe indicated)… [whose] paint colors appear dull and dark. One night he hears a voice that tells him to go where he watches the evening sun, and on the ground he will find what he needs. There he is surrounded by brushes filled with paint, each one a color of the sunset. The brushes take root and are known today as Indian Paintbrush flowers. The illustrations do not reflect Plains material culture.
The retelling is pleasantly cadenced, even though it tells us more about the artist's need for serf-expression within any society than about Plains Indians. And dePaola's somber tones burst forth into satisfyingly brilliant sunsets.
added by aspirit | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 1988)
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.
added by aspirit | editPublisher's Weekly (Apr 1, 1988)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tomie DePaolaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gabriel, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my dear friends, Pat Henry and her husband, Bill, who shared their part of Wyoming with me and didn't make me ride a horse.
First words
Many years ago when the People traveled the Plains and lived in a circle of teepees, there was a boy who was smaller than the rest of the children in the tribe.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Relationship Note: Inspired by 'Texas Wildflowers, Stories and Legends' by Ruth D. Isely.
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Little Gopher follows his destiny, as revealed in a Dream-Vision, of becoming an artist for his people and eventually is able to bring the colors of the sunset down to the earth.

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Book description

Little Gopher is upset in the beginning of the story because he is smaller then the other children and he can not keep up with their strength. When he grows a bit older, he goes to the hills alone to think about becoming a man. This is where the Dream-Vision occurs. The young Indian Maiden and the old grandfather in the clouds gave Little Gopher a rolled-up animal skin, a brush made of fine animal hairs, and pots of paints. They told him to paint pictures of deeds of warriors, visions of the shaman, and a picture pure as the colors in the evening sky. Little Gopher gathered flowers and berries to make his paints, and painted pictures of great hunts and great deeds. He struggled with finding the colors of the sunset. He often looked at the colors of the sky and did not give up on this task. One night he heard voices in the sky telling him to go to the hillside where he sees the sun set and he will find what he needs. The next evening, in this place Little Gopher found brushes filled with paint the colors of the sunset on the ground all around him. Little Gopher finally painted a picture pure as the colors in the evening sky. He left his brushes on the ground and returned to the village. The next morning, the hillside was covered with plants of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. The brushes had taken root and multiplied. Now every spring the ground is covered with these beautiful plants and Little Gopher is praised for being the person who brought the sunset to the earth.

The Native American culture is best described through its use of traditional literature. Much understanding of their ways and beliefs can be found through the study of their legends. Although stories of Native American warrior’s brutality, war, and fighting do exist, these people were mostly about peace with others and kindness toward our earth. “The Legend of the Indain Paintbrush” is a beautiful, well-written example of how the Native Americans believe the people, earth, and sky are all connected. The beginning of the story also reflects the true value that each tribe places upon each individual person in that tribe. dePaola writes, “The wise shaman of the tribe understood that Little Gopher had a gift that was special.” The Native Americans believe that each person, animal, plant, etc. has a purpose and can be used to benefit the well-being of others.

This story along with other De Paola stories would be excellent for a genre study in the classroom. It is easy to pick out elements of a legend and it would be fun to see kids compare these legends.

Publisher-Recommended Age
: From 4 Years to 8 Years

Publisher-Recommended Grade
: From Pre School to Third Grade

Accelerated Reader®
: 4.4 - Lower Grades (K-3)

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Average: (4.12)
1.5 1
2 2
2.5 1
3 22
3.5 9
4 60
4.5 3
5 51

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