Knots on a Counting Rope

by Bill Martin Jr.

Other authorsJohn Archambault (Author)
Paperback, 1990



Call number




Bantam, Doubleday Dell (1990), Edition: Trumpet Club Special, 31 pages


A grandfather and his blind grandson, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, reminisce about the young boy's birth, his first horse, and an exciting horse race.

Media reviews

Written as a dialogue between a grandfather and his blind grandson, this romanticized tale recounts the boy's birth and childhood. No specific tribe is indicated, though the illustrations place the story in a Southwest setting. This is an unlikely American Indian story---for instance, the boy's
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name, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, and his constant interruptions of an elder.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member biblio_girl
A Native American boy and his grandfather reminisce about the boy's birth, his horse, and an amazing horse race. This book celebrates courage in the face of challenges.
LibraryThing member JackieQGreen
I thought that this book had a good story and enjoyed reading it. I like how it told about a young boy and his grandfather and how he learned to face many things through his disability of being blind. It shows the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson and the significance of passing
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on traditions from generation to generation. This is done presented through the Native American culture as the boy and the Grandfather are both Native Americans.
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LibraryThing member lisabankey
Bonnie Bartlett and William Daniels (Boy Meets World) read this story to us. Bonnie reads the little boys parts and William reads Grandfathers parts. These actors may not be as familiar to the students so there is less appeal with this clip.

The little boy in the story begs his grandfather to tell
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him about the day he was born in the story Knots on a Counting Rope. Grandfather tells him and at times the little boys tells part of it. As the story moves along we discover the little boy is blind. This is good example of how you have to search the whole story for character traits, not just the beginning of the story.

This is an excellent website to share with a class. It gives a summary of the book, MANY activity suggestions that encourage deeper involvement with the story itself or the themes of the story. The video is not just watching someone reading. The clips are artfully edited between the actor(s) reading aloud and showing the illustrations form the book (zooming in and out and panning across the page to emphasize details). Other great features of is it easily offers a full screen option and it also offers a caption option so you can read along!!!
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LibraryThing member Lakapp
“Knots on a Counting Rope” written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault is a great children’s story. This story is a Native American tale, which is much different from most children’s books. In this story, a young boy asks his grandfather to tell him a story he has heard many, many
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times. It is the story of the young boy’s life. The boy was born very weak and they thought they were going to lose him; one day the boy received strength from a great blue horse and he was named Boy Strength of Blue Horses. The horse and the boy were very strong together and rode together like the wind. Each time the story was told to the boy, his grandfather would tie another knot in the boys rope; one day, they rope would be filled and when that happened the boy would have enough courage to live on his own. This story is appropriate for older elementary students.
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LibraryThing member kefoley
A boy asks his Grandfather to tell the story of when the boy was born. His Grandfather tells the boy that he has heard this story a lot and should know it by heart. The boy likes it when the Grandfather tells it. Grandfather tells the story with the boys help and puts another knot on the counting
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rope at the end of the story. When the counting rope is filled with knots the boy will know the story by heart.
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LibraryThing member JanaRose1
Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses and his grandfather sit around the fire telling the stories of Boy’s birth, his first horse and a horse race. Boy was born during a great storm and his parents feared the weak and sickly blind child would die. The next morning two blue horses galloped by and stopped to
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look at him, giving him his name. As Boy grows, he teaches his horse to run the trails until he enters a horse race.

Neither the authors nor the illustrator are Native American. Consequently, there are multiple inaccuracies throughout the book. First, the dialogue is unrealistic. The language used is poetic, yet primitive, which depicts the stereotypical view of Native Americans. Also, a child would not be allowed to constantly interrupt his elder. Rather than being named after his first smile, a sick child would be named immediately. Additionally, a Native American would not say that “this boy child will not die.” Such a statement would be considered both an insult and a challenge to the spirits.

The illustrations do not accurately reflect the Navajo culture. The costumes worn by the Native Americans are a mixture of Navajo and Hopi celebration garb. The hairstyles are certainly not Navajo. The Navajo wear their hair clubbed and wrapped. However, throughout the book the women are depicted wearing braids while the men have their front hair braided and the rest hanging lose down their backs. Stereotypically, the grandfather and Boy wear eagle feathers sticking straight up from their hats.
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LibraryThing member jesaltman
This book is about a grandfather andd gradnson reminising on the night the boy was born. The boy is learning the story and can tell parts of it. The granfather tells the parts he does not know. After the story is over the boy has to tie a knot in the rope and told once the rope is full then he will
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be able to tell the story himself and be grown up.
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LibraryThing member tracyhintz
Native american. boy asks his grandfather to describe the world around him....because .... the boy is blind. Author never comes out with this fact. Reader needs to come to their own conclusions. Good read aloud lesson in "Inference" grade 5-6th.
LibraryThing member ngwiaz1
I enjoyed this story for the fact that it is unlike one I’ve ever read before. The main character is a boy, my estimate about seven years old, who is visually impaired. The unique thing about this is that the reader does not know about his disability until the middle of the story. I appreciated
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that the author didn’t use the term blind. Martin simply dropped hints, for instance, saying that all the child could see was darkness. The illustration of the boy having black circles as eyes, with no pupils, could also infer his lack of sight. For this reason, readers can learn that visually impaired children can live the same lives as others. For example, the boy describes the sounds he hears and his internal reactions that in the end leave him with happiness. The author gives off a positive message at this point because a new life was born, a fawn, that the boy named and nurtured all himself. His grandfather supported him and encouraged him that he could train a horse, learn the trails, and ride in a race. All in which the boy did, with the support and love from his grandfather. The boy was recognized for riding the horse with ease and his named prevailed as Boy-Strength-Of-Blue-Horses. Even though he didn’t win the race, he was overwhelmed with joy and satisfaction.
I liked that the setting of the book took place “in the wild”. It gave insight to the Native American culture through the illustrations and activities that the characters did together, for example, riding on trails with wild horses. I like that it was relatable to students in the sense that the grandfather and child were sharing an old story and bonding. The reader could feel how eager the boy was to hear the story from his grandfather.
From the previous details, I think the overall big idea of the book is how significant and influential elders are in children’s lives. Another theme, in relation to the young boy, is that with courage, determination, and passion, an individual can have success.
The ending was particularly interesting. The author expressed that the grandfather knew he wasn’t going to be able to share the story with his grandson forever and will eventually pass on. This is unavoidable in life, and it is expressed in a positive way from the grandfathers’ last words in this story that even if he won’t be there physically, he will always be with his grandson. This can comfort readers and give them a positive outlook on the circumstance of losing their grandparents.
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LibraryThing member DannieN
This story is a great tale told by a grandfather and his grandson who are both Native Americans. The boy asks his grandfather to tell the story of his birth and his horse racing accomplishments. The grandson is blind and finds joy through listening to his grandfather retell this story over and over
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again. At the end of the book, the grandfather tells the grandson that each time he has told the story, he makes a knot on a rope and when the rope is full of knots, the boy will be able to tell the story himself. The grandfather is making a point to his grandson that he has taught him everything that he can and that he will one day have to live on his own, overcoming the many obstacles that he has being blind. The text and illustrations engage readers by teaching Native American culture and by including all of the dialect between the grandfather and grandson. This multicultural book would be a great way to introduce disabilities (blindness) or something about the Native American culture. For older students. the imagery and detailedness could be pointed out through the text. Specifically, the imagery that is created by the author explaining the intenseness of the grandson's horse race.
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LibraryThing member kburtontruxel
This book reveals the power of storytelling to enable oneself to know his/her strengths and to instill hope. I like the technique of using conversation to tell the story. The type is offset so the reader knows who is speaking. The story broadened my perspective by causing me to think about how I
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could encourage someone who may struggle with a disability. The grandfather is realistic by telling the boy the truth about always having "dark mountains" to cross. The illustrations use hues and muted colors to show somber and thoughtful portions of the story and bright colors during the exciting parts. I enjoyed the prominence of the elderly in the Native American community. They were present at the birth and naming ceremonies.
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LibraryThing member Janeece
Thos book tells about how a Native American boy relates and learns from his grandfather. He tells how each time the story has been told they toe a knot on the counting rope and shows how many have previosly been tied. This book is written in a poetic form and is full of detailed illstrations.

I did
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not really care for this book, becuase I had problems understanding the way ot was written. But I did relate to this stor, because I grew up around a bunch of Native Americans and was exposed to alot of thier traditions.

As one of my classroom extensions I am going to read more books dealing with the NAtive American culture. The other is to have a Native American come into my classroom and speak and maybe do an activity with my students.
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LibraryThing member mwade4
Summary: The boy wants his grandfather to tell him the story about who he is. The grandfather has told the boy the story many times, but retells the story once again. The grandfather tells the story about when the boy was born. He continues on and tells about how the boy got his name and learned
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how to race a horse. The little boy is blind so he faces life with more difficulties than others.

Evaluation/Argument: This book does a great job of showing the physical challenges a blind child will face in everyday life. The grandfather is very encouraging of his grandson and helps him to see that he can overcome the darkness of life. I thought that the passing of generations was written very nicely to show the love the grandfather has for his grandson as well from the grandson to his grandfather. For example, the boy tells his grandfather "No, no, Grandfather. There will never be a last time. Promise me that. Promise me." The boy really loved his grandfather and never wanted him to die, even though I am sure he realized one day this was unfortunately going to happen. The grandfather proceeded to tell the boy that he loved him and that he could not promise him anything. Throughout the entire story the love that each of these characters have for one another is portrayed greatly. I thought the way that this book was written was very different and for this reason I loved it! The entire story was dialogue between the boy and his grandfather. he left side was the boy talking and the right side was his grandfather. The two of them would switch back and forth between each page. I thought that this was a great way to set up the book and show readers their interactions. This book also demonstrates the love and appreciation that the Native American culture has for their elders and their family in general. The Native Americans really valued the opinion of the grandmothers and a child could not be born without a grandmother's approval. This shows how much they are appreciated in the culture and the effect that grandmothers carry on the rest of the family. This is a great aspect to see represented in this book. This was a very insightful book into another culture, even if it was a nonfiction story as well.
The central message of this book is to take on life's challenges as best as you can and with all of the confidence that you have. The meaning behind the title was that with each retelling of the story the grandfather would tie a knot on the rope and when there was no more room left on the rope the boy should be able to retell the story on his own. he boy should also have gained confidence in himself retelling the story by hearing the story so many other times. With the boy being blind his grandfather constantly described different animals and images to the boy and expressed how the can get past life's darkness. This is an important message for all kids though. Kids can relate this message to themselves because they need to realize that even when life might seem dark they can get through it with the confidence that they have gained.
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LibraryThing member AlexWyatt
Knots on a Counting Rope was in my opinion a very interesting book that comes from Native American background. I enjoyed reading the story for many different reasons. First, I love how the author uses strong dialog and language to develop the characters. They made you feel connected to the
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characters as if they were people you want to learn more about. As the story proceeds and the boy says, “Tell me again, please. It sounds better when you tell it.” The grandfather reminds the boy that he knows the story but does tell the story again with the boys help. The story and the conversations drew in me and I wanted to hear the story that the young boy was so excited about. The illustrations are another reason I like this book. Each scene the illustrator chose to draw helps amplify the story. Each picture makes you feel the emotion the grandfather is trying to covey while he is retelling the story of his grandson growing up. As the story is being told the mood changes and as that happens in the story so do the illustrations. For example the illustrator paints using dark colors to express the mood of being scared or unsure during at dark time in the story. Or another example is the warm feelings you get when you see the illustrated picture of the birth of the grandson’s horse that he names, Rainbow. This leads to the action pack and exciting scene of his grandson racing his horse and it is painted with bright colors and good details. Most importantly, I like the book because it pushes the reader to think about a topic that they might not fully understand or be comfortable with. It gave me a clear picture that even though Boy, Strength of Blue Horses, was blind he would lead a fairly normal life because of love and perseverance.
The story Knots on a Counting Rope is a great story that shows how to overcome challenges with love and family support. It teaches us the importance of knowing who we are and where we come from.
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LibraryThing member sstelz2
In my opinion, “Knots on a Counting Rope” is a fascinating picture book for children, especially children who want to learn about a Native American boy’s way of life. One of the best parts of the story is its plot. The story tells of a young boy and grandfather who sit around a fire to share
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several family stories. The plot is suspenseful as it tells about the grandfather’s trek up a canyon on the day of the boy’s birth. The language in the book is very descriptive. For example, the boy says, “I leaned forward on Rainbow’s neck. I grabbed her mane tight, and I said, ‘Go Rainbow, go!’ I could feel the pushing and crowding and galloping thunder all around me. Rainbow and I went twisting, turning, galloping, galloping, galloping…counting the gallops.” The illustrations display the most suspenseful parts of the story. The illustrations consist of extraordinary paintings that show the escapades of the grandfather and boy. This book teaches readers about the exciting lifestyle of two Native Americans. The big idea is to show children the strength of one person and the strength of a family's love.
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LibraryThing member knold1
Review: This story is a very good about a little boy who is handicap. He overcomes his disability with the help of his family and culture. This book incorporates Indian culture, disability, and many other things in it.

Summary: The story begins with a Navaho Indian boy asking his grandfather about
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the night of his birth. He was born on a windy night, and was very sick and weak. In the morning his grandfather brought out his grandson. Blue horses ran by and looked at him. He raised his arms to them. The grandfather said that he couldn't die because the blue horses have given him strength to live a long life. They named the little boy, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses. The little boy talks to his grandfather about blue and how he can't see. The boy feels the color blue but can't see it. Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses helps his grandfather complete the story of his childhood.

Argument: I loved reading this book, not only did it teach me a little bit about Indian culture, it was also an amazing story. The little boy was handicap but tried his best to overcome it throughout his life. He rode his horse in a race and believed in himself and wasn't afraid, although he was blind. The little boy had a naming ceremony and talks about how it is important to have a strong and powerful name.

The moral of this story is to never give up on your dreams no matter how hard it might be. It also talks about the importance of family and how powerful they can be. The child was able to "see through the darkness" because of the powers of the horses.
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LibraryThing member bokeef2
Knots on a Counting Rope
Bryan O'Keeffe

This book was definitely interesting to me. I did not really understand the book much at first because it is written really weird. However after reading the book a second I began to really understand what it was. This book is really good. The thing that caught
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me attention the most was how the book was written. The book is entirely dialogue only. There is no narration at all which is kind of hard to understand, but will require a reread of the book. However this makes the book extremely unique and why this book is a good read. The next thing that I noticed was Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses is actually blind. When they retell the story of Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses his grandfather has to fill parts in of his life. I did enjoy how the author portrayed the boy as being blind and did not make his blindness that big of a deal. The other thing that caught my eye was the illustrations. They were all water colors, but the water colors were done so well that I almost couldn't tell and had to look at them for a couple of minutes to realize what style they were. I think this was done perfectly to fit the story. The story was easier to imagine in my head because of the water colors. It also gave a more authentic Native American feel to the story as well. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Native American stories.
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LibraryThing member sreinh2
I thought that this was a really good book. It is about a young boy who asks his grandfather to tell the story of when he was born. His grandfather uses knots on a counting rope to tell all of the important events. What I really liked about this book was that the rope was used because the boy is
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blind, with the knots and the rope the boy will be able to remember the events in the future.

I really loved the illustrations in this book as well. Each picture showed the details of the the events that the grandfather was telling the boy. Because of these detailed pictures I felt that I was listening to the story at the same time that the young boy was there and I was sitting right next to him. I also really liked the layout of the text. When the grandfather was talking the text was aligned to the left and when the boy was talking it was aligned to the right. This made it easy to distinguish who was speaking.

The message of the story was really inspiring as well. It was to always follow your heart no matter what because then you will find true happiness. I thought that this was a great message because it something that everyone can do no matter what.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone.
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LibraryThing member BethWal94
This Native American book is a great book to teach about the different beliefs, such as Native Americans. In the book, the grandson asks his grandfather to tell the story of how the boy had gotten his name. Though he has heard the story many times, he insists that his grandfather tell it (even
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though the boy does most of the telling). In the end, they add another knot on the counting rope, and they say that when the rope is unable to knot anymore, that is when the boy will be strong and wise.
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LibraryThing member egiddi1
I liked this book for the illustrations and the language. The illustrations looked like paintings and followed the written text. For example when the grandson is remembering the day he learned how to ride a horse for the first time, and the illustrations matched the memory. The language is
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descriptive. For example "It was a dark night a strange night." It creates an image of what the night look liked without needing illustrations. The big idea of this story is to trust you instincts.
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LibraryThing member rdg301library
This is a sweet story of the close relationship between an old grandfather and his young handicapped grandson. “Strength-of-Blue-Horses” is left blind after a difficult birth, but two blue horses give him the strength and will to survive. The boy and his horse learn how to run the trail and
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enter a race. They do not win, but his grandfather tells him he has “raced darkness and won.” The boy loves for his grandfather to tell the story of his birth, the blue horses, and the race. Each time he tells it, he ties a knot in the counting rope, which also signifies that he is growing older.

This book is valuable because it shows the close relationship between the grandfather and the boy. It is also a story of inclusion because the boy is never left out by the other boys, and of overcoming a handicap.
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LibraryThing member kbuffum13
Genre:Folk Tales
Age/ grade level: K-2

There was a Native American boy who was blind and his name was Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses and he begged his Grandfather to tell the stories of the night he was born. His grandpa talks about how he was named and the ceremony they had for him. This helped him
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grow strong and continue to grow stronger. He must have courage in his life facing his greatest challenge of having to always live through his darkness of being blind.
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LibraryThing member Jennifer LeGault
The counting rope is a metaphor for the passage of time and for a boy's emerging confidence in facing his blindness.
LibraryThing member reassist
A grandfather and his blind grandson, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, reminisce about the young boy's birth, his first horse, and an exciting horse race.



Original publication date



0440843057 / 9780440843054
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