Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

by Tomie dePaola

Paperback, 1991



Local notes

398.2 deP





Putnam Juvenile (1991), Edition: Sandcastle, Paperback


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.


Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades K-3 — 1990)
Reading Rainbow Program Selection (Selection — 74 — 1991)


Original publication date


Physical description

8 x 0.25 inches

Media reviews

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
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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.
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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.
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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member sharmon05
This story is a good example of a legend. It is qualified as a legend because the story was passed sown by generation to generation, and there is a historical connection. The historical connection comes because the story tells the importance of art to their culture. However, there was no fact in
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the story. The setting in the story was good. The text gave a brief description, but the pictures truly helped the reader. The setting also fit the story and the suggested time period.
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LibraryThing member bperkins07
Genre: This is a good example a a legend, not only for it's title. This legend came from the Native American's of Wyoming, and it provides an explanation for how Wyoming has a certain kind of flower that comes in the shades of the sunset. In this legend, a boy who was not good at the same things
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that most boys were good at in his tribe had a dream that he would become a great painter. He did, and he set out to paint the sunset from his dream. For following his gift, he was rewarded with the perfect colors to recreate the sunset, and when he finished, those colors became the flowers seen today in Wyoming.

Theme: The theme of this story is to use your talents. This was a very important idea for some Native American tribes. Throughout the story, the main character was encouraged to and rewarded for using his talent. He became famous for using his skills, rather than becoming a warrior, like most boys. This was an effective and good use of a theme.
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LibraryThing member emilee
This book would be good for exemplifying that we are all good at different things
LibraryThing member RamiroLongoria
This book is about a young Indian boy who feels inferior because he is not as strong, tall or talented as the rest of the boys in the tribe. However, as the story develops he discovers that his talent is not in warefare but in that he is the best painter. Becasue of his hard work and dedication to
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the tribe he is given the ability to paint with wonderful colors. In the end his name is changed from Little Gopher to He-Who-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth.

I really enjoyed this book for a couple of reasons. I thought the the author was not biased and protrayed the Indian culture with respect. I also appreciated how the author used simple yet colorful pictures to help the reader get a better feel of the story.

In the classroom I would use this book to help the students to see another culture. I would assign the class to read the book and then discuss some of the different traditions that they may have noticed that is unique. Then I think it would be a good idea then to have the class draw a picture that to them represents an idea about the Indian culture.
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LibraryThing member jpeer
This colorful story is about a Native American named Little Gopher who was unlike the other boys in the tribe. The other boys were going to be warriors but Little Gopher was meant for another gift. After having a dream vision he finds it is his gift to paint and tell stories, visions, deeds, etc.
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to his tribe. As much as he longs to become a warrior he knows it is not his gift and continues to paint to share visions his people will always remember. As Little Gopher ages, his name changes to He-Who-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth. I like this tale because it teaches that even if you are not the fastest or strongest, you are valuable for another reason. We are all important. The text and illustrations beautifully capture the feel of this culture.
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LibraryThing member aimtroyer
This is a story about Little Gopher, an Indian boy, who paints wonderful pictures, and works to paint an accurate picture of the sky. He finally succeeds using an Indian Paintbrush. This is actually a type of flower. The paintbrushes Little Gopher used in the book were sticking out of the ground,
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like a flower.
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LibraryThing member tmarks
A folktale about a young boy who finds his place in the world through his paining.
LibraryThing member jlowens4
I reall enjoyed reading the book, "The Legen of the Indian Paintbrush." I would read this book to second or third grade. I would also read this book if I ever had a lesson on indians. The book is a about a little indian boy who never grew big enough to be a warrior. He longed to be able to go on
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the hunts and shoot his bow but he never did. The little boy had a different gift to bring his tribe. He could paint beautifully. The young boy would paint pictures of great hunts, of great deeds, and of great dream visions. Though he made all these wonderful paintings he still longed to fit in. Until one day, he painted a beautiful picture of a sunset. The tribe then named him He-WHo-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth. After this the little indian loved to paint, and he knew that this was his manhood and place in the tribe. I think that this book is a wonderful book to teach children you do not always have to do what everyone else is doing. Just like the little indian he did not need to be a warrior to be a important person to his tribe. I think that many children would love this book.
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LibraryThing member kkcrossley
Cinderella story from the Algonquin Indians. This is evidently a short version of a much longer tale, and takes place on Lake Ontario. Good is rewarded and evil is punished as the story unfolds about an invisible being and those who would marry this magnificent being must be able to see him.
LibraryThing member kikione
A wonderful story about a young Indian boy who is different from the other young men of his tribe. He has a different talent and pursues that talent. When the great spirits tell him what to do, he follows their directions and becomes important in the tribe for recording all of their great events.
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He also brings the Indian Paintbrush to the land when he follows their directions in looking for the perfect colors to paint the sunset. This is a good way to introduce students to tolerance and the celebration of diversity. It also lends itself to discussion about following your dreams and utilizing your talents.
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LibraryThing member ericha.anderson
Legend / Myth

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
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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.
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LibraryThing member nicole.ansara
beautiful Native American pictures, author's note at end explaining about Indian Paintbrush blooms and how she came up with the idea, never give up, follow your dreams
LibraryThing member rachel.bynum
Summary: This is wonderful legend of how the hills and plains got their beautiful wildflowers. In this story a little indian boy (Little Gopher) was not big enough to hunt or go into battle and so he was told by old indian spirits to be patient and he would find his place among his people. After
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much waiting the boy stayed faithful and the spirits supplied the boy with paints so that he may paint his perfect sunset. When he was done he left his brushes on the ground and awoke to a beautiful field of flowers. The townspeople changed his name to He-Who-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth.

Personal: I love this book because it is just filled with great illustration that make indian culture a little more vivid to young listeners and readers.

Extension: Students could paint their own indian paintbrush sunset and explain choises of color.
It would be a great way to teach students about the actual flower the Indian Paintbrush and where it is native to.
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LibraryThing member mrindt
This beautiful Native American legend tells of a boy who set out to paint the sunset. He could not find colors vibrant enough to match the real sunset, but he never gave up. The legend is about how the flower Indian Paintbrush came to be.
LibraryThing member djb016
About a boy who paints in his tribe and to help his village, sacrifices his prized possessions, his paint brushes, to help his tribe. The brushes turn into flowers that cover the landscape and help bring about a happy ending to the story.
LibraryThing member brayner0309
This book is about a young Indian boy, Little Gopher, who is upset because he is different than the rest of the boys in the tribe. As the story continues, he discovers that his talent is painting instead of fighting or hunting. He sets out to paint a sunset he saw in a dream and, from his
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paintbrushes he drops to the ground, flowers grow. In the end his name is changed from Little Gopher to He-Who-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth.

I really enjoyed this book as a child and can remember reading it over and over. The pictures in the book are beautiful and vivid. I like how the book makes kids see that being different and unique is a good thing and that people have different talents than other people.

When I read this to children, I will have them start by telling me things about themselves that make them unique. I will explain to them that everyone is different. After the book, I will have the children draw a talent or hobby that they have.
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LibraryThing member MaryAnnBurton
This was one of my favorite stories when I was in elementary school. finding it again brought back memories and I will be sure to have this in my classroom library when I am teaching. The artwork is beautiful, and the story teaches valuable lessons.
LibraryThing member cassinolan
About a boy who paints in his tribe and to help his village, sacrifices his prized possessions, his paint brushes, to help his tribe. The brushes turn into flowers that cover the landscape and help bring about a happy ending to the story.
LibraryThing member JLockwood12
I liked this book because it taught about perseverance and the importance of keeping up on what you believe in.
LibraryThing member Amy.Lee
This is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations. It makes you appreciate where things come from and how beautiful and colorful our world is.
LibraryThing member EYskollari
This is about a little boy who does not fit in with his peers who hunt, he is a painter and uses his paintbrushes to help his tribe.
LibraryThing member eafranklin
This is a fabulous book for students because of the vivid pictures Tomie De Paola creates throughout the text. The book tells a story of how Indian Paintbrushes came to be and how they spread around the country. This would be a great book to use when teaching students the difference between a
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fictional book and a folktale or legend.
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LibraryThing member Devine1
Little Gopher, a Plain Indians boy feels out of place because he is smaller than the other children in the tribe and did not fit in with the other boys of the tribe. He speaks with the Shaman of the tribe who tells him he will not be a warrior but will be remembered for different
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Little Gopher then has a Dream Vision that tells him he will be a paint pictures of the deeds of the warriors and the visions of the Shaman and he will be remembered forever with his tribe. In the vision he is showed how to use his painting tools to do so. He goes on to paint the great deeds of the warriors and the visions of the Shaman, and he wants to capture the sunset in a painting, but cannot make the colors of the sunset.
He is again has another Dream Vision that tells him that he will find the colors of the sunset the next day. He awakens to go to the hill and finds paintbrushes of all the colors that he needed. He paints the sunset and leaves the paintbrushes there and they become flowers of bright colors that bloom every year.
Little Gopher is remembered by his tribe as the “He who brought the sunset to the Earth”.
Personal Reaction:
This was a good book to read during a Multicultural week or Native American week. It is a book about the legend of the paintbrush and shows how Native Americans have legends for things that they have used or things that were new to them and how they became. I liked the story, it wasn’t too long had good, colorful pictures that depicted the plains Indians.
Classroom Extension:
1. Have Children paint their own sunsets on light brown paper that represents animal skin.
2. Children can make small tepees out of construction paper, and toothpicks, have them paint their teepes.
3. Have children go outside and paint a outside scene.
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LibraryThing member daffyduck24
This is a great book about the legend of the Indian Paintbrush. It's a really neat book the tells how an Indian boy didn't fit in with the other boys. One day the boy had a vision that told him he needed to paint and he began painting. He became known as the boy who made the sunset on earth in his
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This is the first time I have read this book and I loved it. It's a great story to help show children that it's alright to be different and just because you stand out doesn't mean you are not important. This is defiantly a book I will read to my students.
In the classroom I would have the students paint their own pictures and tell me about them. I would also have the students get books about the Indian paint brush and go outside and see if we could find any.
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LibraryThing member lleighton05
Genre: Although this story is false, it tells the legend of how the Indian Paintbrush came to be. Like most legends, it is passed down from generation to generation and therefore, is eventually "retold" so that it can become a book. It connects with the history of the Wyoming State
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Flower, since it tells how it was formed.
Setting: The setting of this story takes place in the plains, among teepees and during the time when Indians were living in North America. The setting is crucial because how the Indian paintbrush came to be could only happen during this time period, according to the story. It becomes the state flower for Wyoming and so would only occur in the plains of North America.
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(158 ratings; 4.1)
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