Inspiring Native American Books

Myths and legends are the source of a culture according to Paul Goble, the Caldecott winning author/illustrator.

Paul Goble Books

I recently was offered two Wisdom Tales books of my choice to review. Wisdom Tales publishes books about world culture. Since reading Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days I have wanted to learn more about Native American culture. While browsing the Wisdom Tales site I was struck by Paul Goble’s Caldecott winning illustrations. I couldn’t stop at two!  

The Earth Made New: Plains Indians Stories of Creation

This book includes aspects of Algonquin, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Arapaho, and Lakota creation stories woven together. Creation is happening all the time. I found it interesting how the Creator is described to have “composed the music of falling rain and wind in the pine trees” and relied on trial and error for where to locate animals. The illustrations look spectacular in this larger format book!

The Boy & His Mud Horses & Other Stories from the Tipi

Before the Spanish brought horses to North America, the native people of the plains used dogs to support their nomadic lifestyle. Horses improved their hunting and traveling abilities enormously and their introduction was considered a great gift.  I like the title story in this compilation of folk tales a lot.  It is about an orphan who hears a voice asking him to care for the horses.  The boy makes some model horses out of clay, brings them to drink at the river’s edge, and eventually they become real.  It reminds me of how little kids really do bring figures to life in play!

The Man Who Dreamed of Elk-Dogs & Other Stories from the Tipi

This is also a compilation of short folk tales from many tribes including Blackfoot, Lakota, Pawnee, Winnebago, Cheyenne, and others.  The title story is also about the introduction of horses to a tribe.  This time a man goes into the mountains for fasting and prayer and is told by a voice where to look for them.  Goble created an illustration in the style of how this man who successfully brought the horses to the Blackfoot tribe might have recorded this proud event.

The tribes strong relationship with nature is evident throughout all the stories and the idea that you must REALLY listen to understand I find so insightful!

All three books are written translations of folk tales from the oral tradition of Native Americans of the Plains. Goble explains in his author’s notes that creating written tellings of these stories is no easy task and they can not be simply transcribed. He has removed redundancies and taken out cultural references that would take too much explanation. He has combined multiple tellings and tried to reference the oldest ones without western references. According to Albert White Hat in the forward to The Boy & His Mud Horse, Goble succeeds at keeping a Lakota flavor and not westernizing these written versions.

Companion Project Ideas 

These are beautiful books and I highly recommend them!  In them you’ll find lots of inspiration for follow up activities!  You could create a drawing of a proud event from your life.  You could create your own horse figures out of air dry clay or write your own creation tale to explain a unique feature of the earth or an animal.  One of the reoccurring themes in these stories has to do with buffalo (their often elusive food source).  I made good luck charms with clay inspired by “The Woman Who Found the Buffalo Stone” from The Boy & His Mud Horses.  Can you see them in the collage?  I used Crayola terra cotta air dry clay and added a brown watercolor wash to the mama once dry.

I really enjoy folk tales. I like how kids and grown ups can enjoy them equally and how your understanding of them evolves as you evolve. They help children make sense of their world. Folk tales contribute to the forming of a community’s values, feed our imaginations, and are expressions of creativity!

Do you have a favorite collection of folk tales?  Please share!


I'm a practical mom inspired by nature & I enjoy sharing ideas that encourage kids' innate curiosity & creativity. Interested in subscribing? Check out the blue box at the top of my sidebar. I'm also a wannabe author/illustrator & product designer by day. Let's connect! If you purchase through my Amazon links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you (thanks for supporting Doodles and Jots)! And remember to always credit your source here & elsewhere on the internet.


    • They are in the collage at the top of the post. They are little things.
      I think next time we are at the beach we will look for real lucky rocks!

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