The Bluebonnet Girl


A dramatic retelling of a Comanche legend of how Texas became known as the blue bonnet state.

"Come every spring

the bluebonnets cling

to prairies the showers renew.

Come, gather near,

settle down, and you’ll hear

of how the first ...

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A dramatic retelling of a Comanche legend of how Texas became known as the blue bonnet state.

"Come every spring

the bluebonnets cling

to prairies the showers renew.

Come, gather near,

settle down, and you’ll hear

of how the first bluebonnets grew."

This beautiful Comanche legend of how a young girl sacrifices her most precious possession, even as the bravest men refuse, to save her land and people from a terrible drought, is retold here in dramatic verse and striking full-color paintings.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Book Award winner

"A pleasant introduction to a popular legend." —Kirkus Reviews

"The storytelling is imaginative and probing." —Publishers Weekly

"Lind presents a colorful retelling of the Comanche legend that explains why bluebonnets grow in Texas. . . .Handsome acrylic paintings accentuate the drama as does the vivid poetic imagery"—Booklist

Publishers Weekly
Lind makes his children's book debut with an uneven verse rendition of a familiar Comanche legend. When the People suffer a drought, the old warrior Spirit Talker divines that the People are being punished for greed and that each must sacrifice his most cherished possession. Only a young girl is willing to give up her private treasure-a doll that wears a bonnet of blue jay feathers-and her selflessness is rewarded when the rains yield fields and fields of bluebonnet flowers the next morning. The storytelling is imaginative and probing: rather than judging the characters, readers will sympathize with the warrior who, prizing his bird-bone vest, waits for someone else to sacrifice first ("When others act, then I will join the rest"); the woman who treasures her beaded moccasins; Spirit Talker who can't relinquish his pipe; etc. But the enjambment and the rhymes are often stilted: "The morning glowed. The child awoke/ to hear the folk/ exclaiming all around. The girl/ stretched to unfurl/ the tepee flap." Kiesler's (Old Elm Speaks) richly textured acrylics effectively portray moments alternately somber and celebratory. Thick brushstrokes of gold and tan delineate the dry landscape against expanses of blue prairie sky, while more refined lines reveal such detail as feathers on a leather shield or beadwork. Especially captivating are the lush, impressionistic bluebonnets. Despite awkward moments in the narrative, this retelling has much to offer. Ages 4-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This Comanche legend from Texas has been retold several times before, most notably by Tomie dePaola in The Legend of the Bluebonnet (1983). Michael Lind has chosen to relate the tale in verse as opposed to dePaola's sparser and more direct prose. While this new retelling focuses at length on several of the Comanches who are reluctant to sacrifice their most prized possessions to save the People from a severe drought, the earlier book presents a touching portrait of the young girl who makes the ultimate sacrifice by burning her precious doll decorated with blue feathers. Both end with a welcome downpour and the magical sight of hills and valleys covered with a mass of brilliant bluebonnets. Kiesler's full-page acrylic paintings in rich browns and pale blues are more realistic than dePaola's mannered, deeply-colored illustrations done in his unique style-the first artist shows more details of camp and prairie life, while the latter conveys the sense of mystery and formal shape of a legend. Young folktale-lovers will find it interesting to compare these two versions and to discuss their likenesses and differences, both in the telling and in the illustrations. Teachers and librarians may enjoy experimenting with each to see which version makes the more immediate impact when read aloud. Lind, a native of Texas, ends his volume with a useful Author's Note telling more about the flower (a wild lupine), the legend itself, and the Comanche people. 2003, Holt, Ages 4 up.
— Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-This long-winded retelling in verse of the legend of the Texas Bluebonnet lacks child appeal. The story, popularized in Tomie dePaola's The Legend of the Bluebonnet (Putnam, 1983), finds the Comanche people suffering from a dearth of rain. In Lind's version, Spirit Talker tells the people that the drought is punishment for people's greediness, and that "Whatever you own that you treasure,/what you will not trade for a price,/that you must toss in the campfire,/that you must sacrifice." No one is willing to destroy a most prized possession, and the people leave the campfire with their heads bowed in shame. That night, one girl tosses her beloved doll into the fire. The rains come, and in the morning, the plains are covered in blue flowers. The versions of this story available online and in dePaola's book suggest a different interpretation of these people; they have become selfish (not "greedy"), and must make a smoke offering of the most prized possession among them. All of them consider their own thing of value to be too insignificant, but the girl knows that it is her beloved doll that the spirits must want. Lind's different (and less kindly) interpretation is further burdened by belabored verse in varying meter and rhyme that, though occasionally lovely (usually when elaborating on a nonessential detail of setting), makes the story far too long and ponderous. Kiesler's impressionistic acrylic illustrations are full of light and color, but aren't well served by Lind's words.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Those interested in regional folklore and flowers will find this retelling by first-time author Lind to be of special interest; all readers will find it to be a satisfying story of the origin of the Texas bluebonnet. Introduced with a two-stanza poem Lind's retelling recounts in rhyme the oft-told tale of a young girl who takes the initiative to sacrifice her prized possession, a doll with a bonnet made of bluejay feathers. Others in her tribe selfishly cling to their prized possessions, unwilling to make a sacrifice to end the drought afflicting her people. It is just the little girl who is willing, and only after she watches her doll burn and turn to ashes does she return to her tepee. In the night the rain comes and brings with it lush fields filled with blue and white blossoms: the legendary bluebonnet. A nice contrast to Tomie dePaola's The Legend of the Bluebonnet (1983), which has sometimes been cited as being too frightening for the very young reader, Lind's version does not divulge the girl's family situation but has her acting alone to make her sacrifice. In this version, the doll is a precious companion rather than the last remaining keepsake from a family she has lost. Kiesler (Wings on the Wind, 2002, etc.) uses acrylics in full-bleed paintings to enrich the verses. Color is used to evoke the somber and then joyous mood of each story incident; the double-page spread of the glorious bluebonnets rising to the soft clouds and blue sky is particularly striking. An author's note summarizes the origin of the tale and provides a brief chronology of the Comanche nation and their presence in the Southwest. A pleasant introduction to a popular legend. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805065732
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.48 (w) x 10.36 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Lind is the highly regarded author of many books for adults, including The Alamo: An Epic, which the Los Angeles Times named as one of the Best Books of 1997. Formerly the Washington editor at Harper’s magazine and a staff writer at The New Yorker, he is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. A native of Texas, Mr. Lind currently lives in Washington, D.C. This is his first book for children.

Kate Kiesler is the illustrator of a number of highly praised books for children, including Taiko on a Windy Night, written by Sally Derby. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she worked as an assistant to the noted illustrator Barry Moser before beginning her own career in children’s books. Ms. Kiesler now lives in Colorado.

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