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Knots on a Counting Rope

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,080 ratings  ·  116 reviews
In this poignant story, the counting rope is a metaphor for the passage of time and for a boy's emerging confidence in facing his blindness.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 15th 1997 by Square Fish (first published October 15th 1987)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,080 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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Mar 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books, indian
This is a difficult book to review because on the one hand it is a moving and poetic account of a little boy's (formally named "By-Strength-of-Blue Horses") eagerly asking and prompting his grandfather to tell the story of the boy's own life, a story that, when it is completed, is marked by a knot on a counting rope. As the story is told, the boy's blindness is revealed, which makes more suspenseful the episode of a horse race among this boy and others. That is what makes the counting rope ...more
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I really liked the idea of storytelling, of the connection between grandfather and grandson, of passing wisdom and knowledge from one generation to another, of learning to live with and overcoming a disability, and of the strength of family. However, as an educator I found some aspects of this book problematic. I think that there are benefits in teaching multicultural literature but we need to be careful that we are not teaching and promoting stereotypes and inaccurate and inauthentic stories. ...more
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
I didn't bother to finish this book. I was reading it to my 6 year old and the cultural inaccuracies were fairly blatant. The unfortunate thing is that this could have been a decent book had they just not tried to make it a Native American book. This is why the most commonly given book advice is, 'write what you know'. Additionally, if you are writing about something you do not know, research the heck out of it. That doesn't feel like it happened here. This book isn't a negative portrayal of ...more
Megan Denney
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Knots on a Counting Rope is about a boy and his grandfather as they sit around the fire the boy begs his grandfather to tell the story about how the boy got his name. The grandfather tells the boy this will be his last time and he goes on to tell the story of how he got his name through the storm and rodeo. The knots on the counting rope are a metaphor for the boy's courage and his overall challenge of being blind.

I would definitely use this book in my class. The author does a great job of
Jun 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
Knots on a Counting Rope (Reading Rainbow Book) by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand is a poignant yet controversial story of a young blind Native American boy, with the counting rope used as a metaphor for both the passage of time and the emerging confidence of the boy.

The text is spare and poetic. It promotes confidence and belief in oneself. It also is postive in the value of storytelling and the bond between a grandson and grandfather.

The illustrations are evocative
Nani Yanagi
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is about Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, who is told of his life story by his grandfather. When Boy was born, he was very sick and ill. His parents didn’t know if he was going to make it or not. His grandfather took him outside where two blue horses were running and stopped by to see this little boy. Boy reached out to touch them and his grandfather could feel the blue horses giving Boy the strength he needs to live. This is where he got his name. Boy had a connection with the blue horses ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
Does your library own this book? Time to weed it:
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Native American, blind, physical disability requests
Recommended to June by: Reading Rainbow
A touching story of a grandfather and his blind grandson.
Logan Savage
Knots on a Counting Rope is a children’s book about a little boy who is blind. In the story, there is a Native American boy and his grandfather. The boy, “By-Strength-Of-Blue-Horses” was born blind and is searching for confidence in himself. In order to do this, he asks his grandfather to retell the story of his birth and life. Throughout the story, the grandfather tells of how the family didn’t think the boy would live and how he overcame many dark mountains in his life. He found a love in ...more
Rachel Replogle
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this historical fiction well written and attention-grabbing. It tells the story of a young Native American boy born with blindness, searching for confidence despite his disability. As the well-developed plot unfolds, readers will understand that confidence and how you view yourself is determined by internal qualities and not the physical attributes society so presses. The storyline is action-packed and filled with moments that will both intrigue and surprise young readers. The book is ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story of a native boy and his grandfather recounting the story of the boy's life and birth. This book's art was really pretty. It portrays the story in a really beautiful way. The story is told through a lot of dialogue which really helps reveal the personalities of both of the characters in a really cool way. And the fact that the boy was blind is revealed very subtly, which makes it extremely satisfying to realize. The way it was written, the book is excellent. The book would have been a ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: g-traditional
Awards: None
Grade level: PreK-2
Summary: Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horse asked his grandfather to tell his story of his birth, his first horse and race. Every time his grandfather retells the the story, they tie a knot in a rope; when the rope is filled with knots, he will know the story by heart.
My Review I like this book because you can also follow the story through the illustrations. This book would be great in the classroom because it teaches about Native Americans, shares the special connection
I’m not sure what constitutes as a classic indigenous children’s book but this one was wonderful. A beautiful reflection on the passage of our lives. A book that reflect the inter generational love between grandfather and grandson. All done tastefully with gorgeous paintings.

I would have loved the creators biographies to know if any of the three were native and to which nation they belonged but I couldn’t find any. Knowing the nation of the story helps to avoid pan- indianism.
Melissa Namba
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dnamba
A story with a bittersweet ending. All about the life of a little boy who was born blind. He overcomes this and lives up to his given name. But at the end, there is a feeling of sadness because you know that eventually his grandfather must die. The love between the boy and his grandfather is evident so it is sad to know that the boy's heart will be broken one day.
Andrea L’Ecuyer
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: el230a
I like the story line of the book. I loved how the book talks about passing stories through traditions and down from generation to generation. I also thought it was good that the boy overcame an obstacle and was able to accomplish the tasks. However, this book contains some stereotypical situations that a teacher should avoid in the classroom.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jp-reads, read-to-jp
Oh, so beautiful. The words and the story. It was also a neat surprise to see the school library bookplate and discover that the book had been given to the school by a woman from our church who is a very special person. (She is in her 90s and moved here from Wales in the 50s and her father fought in the Great War.)
Trey Kennedy
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This book is a good reminder to us to prepare our young ones for the future and to help train them for what they will have to encounter in the future. It works for organizations too.

This can also be a good way to broach the subject of death with little ones.
Mrs. Ruigrok
As grandfather tells the boy the story...he builds a knot on a rope, confidence and the passage of time. This is a lovely story about the metaphor of the knots on the rope with the passage of time and the boy building his confidence as he deals with his blindness.
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really lovely story but set in a baffling Native American context that seems to be a conglomeration of many Indian cultures. The story is good though, featuring a deep connection between a boy and his grandfather, and how the boy navigates his blindness.
Kaylynn Johnsen
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid
Bill Martin Jr. shares with us the conversation of a young, blind boy with his grandfather. Told in the conversational voice we hear the story of his birth and life. The beautiful realistic illustrations by Ted Rand are as moving as the words of the story.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it
While this is a touching story of a boy and his grandfather, and his grandfather helping him learn to live with his blindness I’m not sure that this is an accurate example of any Native American speech.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So looking through the other reviews I see a very valid point about the correct representation of the American Indian culture and other indigenous people of the US. However, the story is beautiful (though the back-and-forth narration takes an extra read).
Destiny Park
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a very different book than I expected. It is about a blind Native American boy who wants his grandfather to tell him the story of how he was born. It would be a perfect to tech students about Native American culture and how to overcome obstacles and remain positive.
Jim Towle
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A GREAT story for 2nd graders.
Jon Lachelt
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a story from my childhood. It brought tears to my eyes each time read it to my girls.
This is a beautiful tale of boy and his grandfather recounting the boy's birth. It reads like a folk tale of Indian heritage.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been trying to find this book forever, and it was worth the wait. Lovely story, and I was just barely able to hold the tears in at the end.
Child asks Grandparent to tell again the story of their birth. The two retell the story by prompting each other.
Kaitlyn Ramirez
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kaitlyn Ramirez:

Knots on a Counting Rope
By: Bill Martin Jr.

Knots on a Counting Rope is a story about a young Indian boy who was born on a stormy night on the Indian Reservation. When he was born Boy was very sick and frail, he didn’t open up his eyes until he met his brothers from the north, the horses. Something came over him that allowed him to smile for the first time it was then at a naming ceremony his grandfather named him, Boy Strength of Blue Horses, he was named after the two blue
Katie Fitzgerald
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book I always see at libraries and book sales but had never read until now. An American Indian grandfather relates to his grandson the story of the boy's life, in which it is revealed that the boy is blind. I thought it was a poignant inter-generational story, but many other reviewers have been quick to tear it apart for its apparent inaccurate portrayal of American Indian culture. I liked both the style of writing which was very poetic and the use of light and shadow in the ...more
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Bill Martin, Jr. (1916-2004) was an elementary-school principal, teacher, writer, and poet. His more than 300 books, among them the bestselling classics Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See; Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear; Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See; and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, are a testament to his ability to speak directly to children. Martin held a doctoral degree in early ...more