Loni Edwards

Illustration and Paintings in Digital, Watercolors and Ink

Perfect Picture Book Fridays: The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush


I am adding the book, The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola to the Perfect Picture Book Fridays List.



Title: The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

Author/Illustrator: Tomie de Paola

Publisher: Puffin 1996

Ages: 4 and Up

Themes: Be Yourself, Special Talents, Self-Esteem/Self-Worth, Self-Acceptance, Nature, History


“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. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep up with the other boys who were always riding, running, shooting their bows, and wrestling to prove their strength. Sometimes his mother and father worried for him.

This folk tale is a retold legend of how the wildflower, The Indian Paintbrush, came to be on the plains of North America. It is the tale of a Native American boy, Little Gopher, who is small and longs to be a warrior. His path leads different than others however. Little Gopher has a Dream Vision in which he is told to paint on buckskin the deeds of the warriors and the legends of the tribe. He longs to be a great hero to the tribe, and eventually he succeeds, but not in the way of the warrior as he thought.

The colorful illustrations accentuate the authenticity of a tale that encourages children to follow a different drummer. – Children’s Book Review Service.

The humanity expressed in this story illustrates the value of perseverance and of the endurance of effort that will bring its reward – School Library Journal (starred review).


The Nebraska DOT has a roadside wildflower guide to download if you plan on traveling through the plains states.

Pinterest has a Wildflowers board of the Midwest

Here is what an Indian Paintbrush plant looks like

The US Forest Service has some coloring pages for wildflowers

Classroom/Home activity:  Discover what native wildflowers are located in the child’s own state. Pick one flower to research. Draw a picture of the flower.

Why I like this book: 

This book touched my heart because it is about a child who is different from everyone else around them. It is how this child overcame adversity to walk their own path in life. Tomie de Paola is one of my favorite author & illustrators who has a way of telling a complex story in a way that children can understand. His illustrations are delightful and fun, making the book even more engaging to children. Tomie writes at the end of the book that he is retelling this legend that was first published in 1965 in an article for Austin American-Statesman by Ruth D. Isley. It is now collected in the book, Texas Wildflowers, Stories and Legends.


Perfect Picture Book Fridays are a weekly blog event where participants review some of their favorite picture books. The posts are compiled on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. They are categorized by theme to help parents, educators and readers find the perfect picture book easily. To learn more, please visit Susanna’s site where you will find the complete PPBF’s library.

*November is Picture Book Month!  Read *Share *Celebrate!


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  1. Patricia Tilton 02/11/2012

    I purchased this book for my daughter when it first came out. She loved Tomie dePaola’s books, and I still love his work. Great folk tale with an important message. And, the artwork is beautiful.

  2. Julie Rowan-Zoch 02/11/2012

    Love this one too – especially because I love spotting this flower on the foothill trails nearby! Great pick!

  3. Hannah Holt 02/11/2012

    Indian paint brush is one of my favorite flowers. It reminds me of going backpacking with my grandfather in the Unita Mountains. I had no idea there was picture a book about them. Thanks for the review.

    • Loni Edwards 03/11/2012

      What a lovely memory to hold dear when you see the Indian Paintbrush! Whenever I see roses, I always think of my parents. It’s a great way to keep a memory. I’m glad to have shared this wonderful book with you, you will like it!

  4. Joanna 02/11/2012

    Loni, a Tomie de Paola book I don’t know, yay! I want to see these flowers now!

    • Loni Edwards 03/11/2012

      Hi, Joanna! Yes, this one is not one of the ones you see in the bookstores a lot. I think it is one of his best!

  5. Beth Stilborn 02/11/2012

    I love stories that are based on legends, and I love that this boy triumphs because of/despite of his differences. This sounds like a winner, Loni!

  6. Laura Renauld 03/11/2012

    What a great message! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Susanna Leonard Hill 05/11/2012

    Oh, I LOVE this book, Loni! Thank you so much for adding it to our list. It’s so touching, and so valuable for kids to realize that they all have their own unique ways to be special, even if it’s not what they thought. A good lesson for all of us 🙂 Thanks!

    • Loni 05/11/2012 — Post Author

      You’re welcome! I love books like this. Thanks for stopping by Susanna 🙂

  8. Vivian Kirkfield 07/11/2012

    Yes, yes, yes…I think this is my favorite of this week’s PPBF. I absolutely LOVE Tomie de Paola…and I had never seen this one…so thank you, Loni, for sharing it. What a perfect book for the Thanksgiving season…it’s interesting, because so many of the entries are about kindness and caring about others and believing in oneself and overcoming challenges.

    • Loni 12/11/2012 — Post Author

      I agree Vivian! This one is not as well known as some of his others, but it deserves a place on the bookshelf for sure. Thanks for your comment!

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