Emptying Oneself: A Review of ‘The Legend of Bluebonnet’


“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.  Without sacrifice, there is no love.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Reading Level

AR4.2 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Grades 1-3

Review and Comments

The Legend of the Bluebonnet is definitely my favorite Tomie dePaola book.  This beautiful story shows how the selfless giving of an ordinary, little Comanche girl accomplishes something quite extraordinary and saves her people.

The Comanche people, especially the young and old, are suffering greatly during what seems like an endless drought.  They pray to the Great Spirits and ask what they must do to end this devastating trial.  The shaman also prays to the Great Spirits, and when he returns from his private prayer time, he tells them the drought is a result of their selfishness. They must sacrifice their most valued possessions as an offering, and then spread the ashes to the points of the earth.  If they do this, the drought and famine will end.  The People are relieved they have an answer.  They acknowledge their most prized possessions and talk about why each article is special, but in the end each person decides that the Great Spirits surely isn’t asking forhis or her particular item.

A little orphan girl named She-Who-Is-Alone witnesses the conversations among the People and knows that no one is willing to sacrifice. In her heart, she discerns that she must be the one to save her People.  Her prized possession is a beloved doll – the only reminder she has of her parents and the wonderful life they shared.  So, in the middle of the night she takes her doll, leaves the village, and finds an isolated area.  She offers her doll to the Great Spirits and puts the doll into a fire.  Then she scatters the ashes just as the Great Spirits desired.

The next morning, there are flowers everywhere.  The People sing and dance in thanksgiving because they know the Great Spirits have forgiven them.  Finally, rain begins to fall, and the land is abundantly fruitful once more.   She-Who-Is-Alone is no longer known by that name.  She is now called One-Who-Dearly-Loved-Her-People.

This wonderful story is appropriate either as a read aloud book or for young independent readers.  The loss of parents may be difficult for some young children however.  After reading the book, a second grader commented, “It’s a good book but kind of sad.”  I feel the beauty of this child’s love put into action and many other lessons (environment, prayer, lack of sacrifice, care of an orphan, Native American culture, etc.) would be a valuable addition to a child’s experience. It’s one of those stories that will be read more than once.

Possible Concerns

A sensitive child may find the loss of parents and grandparents difficult.  There are no other concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Vocabulary: Great Spirits, drought, Comanche, famine, buckskin, warrior, leggings, brilliant, shaman, plentiful, distant, selfish, sacrifice, offering, valued, possession, scattered, cease, restore, tipi, council, crept, accept, thrust, miraculous

Summarizing the Story:

This book is appropriate for summarizing a story (introduction or continuing lesson).  Make a chart with the following headings.

  1. Setting, Time, Place
  2. Characters
  3. Problem
  4. Events
  5. Resolution

Cause and Effect: Make a chart showing the cause and effect relationship in this story.

  1. Divide a paper in half vertically.  Label the left column Cause and the right column Effect. Draw an arrow from the cause to the effect. [Examples: The People were selfish. àThe People suffered from a drought. The Shaman prayed to the Great Spirits. àThe Great Spirits answered his prayers.]

“18 Fascinating Facts Every Bluebonnet Enthusiast Needs to Know” includes pictures of bluebonnets.

  1. Paint a picture of a bluebonnet.

Comanche Information:

  1. “Comanche Tribe” contains interesting facts, pictures, and information.
  2. “Comanche Tribe” has basic information with photographs
  • “Shaman” explains the role of the shaman. h
  • Map work: On a map of the United States, color the area where the Comanche lived at the time of this story.

Lesson Plan:  “Native American Legends” is a fourth grade lesson plan about legends using The Legend of the Bluebonnet. h

Catholic Resources

Saint Therese of Lisieux once said:  “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” Her feast day is October 1.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta quotes about sacrifice:

  1. “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.  But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
  2. “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”
  3. “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”
  4. “Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning.  Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.”
  5. “Good works are links that form a chain of love.”
  6. “Love, to be real, must empty us of self.”
  7. “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”

Saint Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.”

Sacrifice: “By sacrifice in the real sense is universally understood the offering of a sense-perceptible gift to the Deity as an outward manifestation of our veneration for Him and with the object of attaining communion with Him. Strictly speaking, however, this offering does not become a sacrifice until a realchange has been effected n the visible gift.” Source: https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/sacrifice

  1. After reading the story help your child compose a simple definition for the word sacrifice.
  2. Together, make a list of sacrifices that your child, or you and your child, can do together. Encourage performing these sacrifices regularly.

[This legend discusses that the Comanche People worshipped many spirits equally.]

CCC 200 These are the words with which the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed begins. The confession of God’s oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of God’s existence and is equally fundamental. God is unique; there is only one God: “The Christian faith confesses that God is one in nature, substance and essence.”

CCC 201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.. . To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.'”

CCC 202 Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is “the Lord”. To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as “Lord and giver of life” introduce any division into the One God…

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