Paul Goble: "Little Thunder"

Readers who enjoy Paul Goble's many stories of traditional Native American lives and legends are sometimes surprised to discover that the author/illustrator was born in England and not in the American West.

When he was a young boy, he liked to spend time at a lake near his home. He studied all the plants, birds, animals, and insects he saw there throughout the year, and he began to collect arrowheads and wildflowers. Soon he started to draw and paint from nature and from the specimens he would find in books and museums.

Even with all these many studies, what interested him most were Native Americans. His mother read to him stories about these peoples, and when he was older he read all the books he could find on them. His loving mother—also a painter—also made him a tipi that she decorated with native designs and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horsessewed him a fringed shirt with leggings.

Paul Goble never got over his interest in Indians. He went on to study art at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and visited the United States while a student. He worked as a commercial artist for many years. But he was first inspired to write and illustrate a book for children when he wanted to find an age-appropriate book on Custer's Last Stand for his own son, and there simply weren't any. He wrote Red Hawk's Account of Custer's Last Battle in 1969. It was and remains successful in large part because Mr. Goble stayed true to Native American art styles and rhythms in a way that had not been done before for children.

In 1977, he moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota with his family and soon became an American citizen. His interest in Native Americans was so deep and genuine that he was adopted into the Yakama (Yakima) tribe by Chief Alba Shawaway and into the Sioux tribe by Chief Edgar Red Cloud. He was given the name Wakinyan Chikala, or "Little Thunder." Fame came in 1978 when he won the Caldecott Medal for The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses—the story of a girl who feels so much harmony with the wild horses grazing near her village that she becomes one of them.

This book, like all his others, uses the correct, natural details for the places about which he is writing—something he learned during his childhood. Mr. Goble has also adopted the drawing styles of the people about whom he writes to his work to bring more of the old ways to modern readers.

The Iktomi Stories

Most every culture has trickster tales—stories of characters who are clever rather than strong. Sometimes the character is larger-than-life and has many adventures where he outwits his foes. In West Africa, there is Anansi the Spider Man. In the Southern U.S., the Brer Rabbit stories seem to be a blend of African-American and Cherokee traditions. On television and in the movies, Bugs Bunny and Jack Sparrow are both beloved tricksters. Iktomi filled that role for the Lakota people of North and South Dakota. Like Anansi, Iktomi was a spider. But he could take any shape including that of a human and that is how he appears in Paul Goble's books.

Mr. Goble has written many stories featuring the tricky Iktomi: Iktomi and the Boulder
The first in the series finds Iktomi running from an angry boulder when the trickster breaks a deal.

Iktomi and the Coyote
Proud Iktomi tricks a band of prairie dogs only to find himself in hot water with a coyote.

Iktomi Loses His Eyes
Iktomi learns a magical trick of sending his eyes away from his body. He can do this trick four times a day and be fine. But Iktomi can't resist showing off to his friends and soon he's looking for more eyes to replace the ones that won't come back.Song of Creation

Iktomi and the Buzzard
Why swim when you can fly? Iktomi tries to trick the buzzard into carrying him across the river. Silly, lazy Iktomi.

Iktomi and the Berries
Iktomi started the day hunting prairie dogs and found his hungry self trying to to pluck some buffalo berries from the bottom of the river. Not a good day for Iktomi!

Iktomi and the Buffalo Skull
Iktomi knows that he is a handsome man—so handsome that the girls in the next village are sure to swoon for him. Or they would if his horse hadn't dumped him in the middle of the plains and the mouse people (who are at least as clever as Iktomi) trick him into getting his head stuck inside a buffalo skull!

Iktomi and the Ducks
Iktomi may be smarter than the ducks, but is he smarter than Coyote?

Among Mr. Goble's most recent books are Tipi: Home of the Nomadic Hunters, Song of Creation, and Mystic Horse. Every story is well-researched so the pictures and words give a truer picture of Native American culture than many other books for young readers.

Read More About Paul Goble, in the Library and Online

Hau Kola, Hello Friend by Paul Goble
A small biography for early readers in which Mr. Goble tells something of his life and work.

Interview with Paul Goble
A good but short interview that delves into the author's research and writing methods.I Sing for the Animals

Museum of Nebraska Art: Paul Goble
Some information on Mr. Goble's work and awards.

Paul Goble: Life and Work
Includes several useful critical quotes.

The Englishman of the Great Plains
A longer piece from Five Owls—a magazine specializing in children's literature.

These excellent articles are available to CRRL card holders through our OneSearch collection of databases:

"An Interview with Paul Goble." (Book Corner). Jeter J. Durkin.Whispering Wind 35.3 (May-June 2005): p32(2) Accessed through Expanded Academic ASAP Print

"Paul Goble." St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th ed. St. James Press, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.

"Paul Goble." Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults,, 2nd ed. 8 vols. Gale Group, 2002. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.

"Paul Goble." Contempory Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.