Monday, May 21, 2012

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Thanks to Brittney Sandreson for a lovely reflection.

Goble, P. (1978). The girl who loved wild horses. New York: Scholastic.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses is a Plains Indians tale of how the Native Americans express their love of nature and animals. In this story, a young Native American girl spends a lot of time with the wild horses that travel with their tribe. She would care and protect those horses constantly and everyone in her tribe knew of her love for the horses. On one hot summer day, she laid down and fell asleep with the fresh breeze and the scent of rain.  She is unaware of the brewing storm that is rolling across the plains. When a sudden bolt of lightning and thunder that shook the earth, she awoke to find the horses scattering in terror. She quickly jumped on the back of a black stallion and tried to calm the horses but her efforts were useless. The wild horses galloped away frantically to safety away from the storm, the whole time, the young girl stayed with them. They ran faster and farther away from the young girl’s camp and only stopped when they reached beyond the storm. They were in a place unknown to the girl and while she was afraid, she continued to comfort the horses. The next morning she was awakened by a miraculous sight: a beautiful, spotted stallion that was more handsome than any horse she had ever dreamed about, appeared to her and told her he was the leader of wild horses. He invited her to live and stay with them and she agreed. The people of her village looked for her tirelessly but to no avail. A year later, two hunters spotted her and returned to the village to share with the people what they had seen. They sent out many men on their fastest horses to find the young girl. They struggled to catch her on the beautiful spotted stallion and only caught her when the horse tripped and she fell off. They returned with her to the village. She was excited and happy to see her family yet she longed to return to the wild horses. Soon after returning, she fell ill and no doctor could cure her sickness. Everyone is at a loss on what to do! 
What will happen to the girl? Read The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses to find out!
This is a multicultural picture book that discusses the relationship that the Native Americans had with nature. The illustrations, which were also done by Goble, are remarkable. This was a recipient of the Caldecott Medal in 1979. It appears as if the illustrations have been done with oil paintings or some other bold media. The colors are vibrant and would appeal to children. The horses and other animals drawn in the book are very lifelike and would be easily recognizable to children. The illustrations complement the plot and allow for the reader to follow the story. The story is multicultural because it deals with the legends of the Native American people.The illustrations and the words on the page definitely display a sense of imagery. The words almost come alive as you read them. At one point in the story, the girl is on a black stallion trying to escape the hunters looking for her. Goble describes the horse saying, "His eyes shone like cold stars. He snorted and his hooves struck as fast as lightning." Goble's use of this and other similes really makes the story come to life in your mind. This would be a good trade book to use for visualizing as well.

This story would be an excellent cross-curricular trade book to read with students. In 2nd grade, we study Native American tribes. One thing we learn about is their deep connection with nature and how they pass on legends from person to person. This would be the perfect example of a text to do that. In the past, I have used Tommie dePaola’s book The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush and this is a similar text that you could use to get the same ideas across. The illustrations in the book would be an excellent example to show how they lived in tipi’s, what kinds of things they wore as clothes and how they hunted on the plains. They also show great detail in the clothing that they wore and the various embellishments that the others in the tribe fashioned. The setting, on the plains, is very realistic and would give the readers a good picture of what life was like for these Plains Native Americans.
At the end of the story, there are two Native American songs about horses. After reading and discussing the story and the legend, you could also have students write their own songs or poems about a horse. Then they could illustrate their song or poem to match the style of Goble’s. Children could also, as another enrichment activity with art, design their own tipi’s to match those of the drawings in the book, mimicking the designs and patterns.

BIG Questions to use with students while reading this story: Why do you think the girl felt such a connection to the horses? If you were her family, explain how you would feel knowing she wanted to leave you and go live with the horses? Why do you think nature was so important to Native American people? 

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