Name of Book: Beyond the Ridge
Author: Paul Goble
Illustrator: Paul Goble
Publisher: Bradbury Press
Audience: Ages 6 -10
Summary: An old woman, a Grandmother, who is a Plains Indian, lies dying with her husband, daughter, and grandchildren surrounding her. She hears a voice telling her that her mother is calling her, and she remembers that her mother died many years ago. She begins to make the difficult journey up a steep hill to a pine-covered ridge. She knows that she must make this journey alone. As the story continues, she reaches the ridge and she is able to see “beyond the ridge” to the Spirit World, or the Land of Many Tipis. It is a beautiful land–full of butterflies, birds, herds of buffalo and antelope. She sees her mother and father and grandparents and all the people she had known previously. When the old woman dies, her spirit departs and her body is left behind. Her family is sad, and they grieve for her. They perform burial rights for her in keeping with their ways.
Literary elements at work in the story: The author’s beautiful drawings of the Plains Indian people, the native birds and animals, the sky and the landscape, all portray a deep respect for the Plains Indian people. The author’s use of contrasting colors and shapes, tells a story of its own. Words written in italics in the book are words that were actually spoken by Indian people. The author provides the sources of these words and phrases on page four of his book. The author also explains some of the customs of the Plains Indian people in his “note from the author” which enrich his story.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? In our current culture which is too frequently characterized as a youth culture, this book describes the process of dying as a natural part of life. The Plains Indian people described in this book were greatly saddened by death, but saw it through the eyes of their own culture. The author skillfully draws parallels between the Plains Indian culture and the American culture.
Theological conversation partners: The author writes: “Death seems like the end, but it is not. The body goes back to the earth, but the spirit lives forever.” Our Christian teaching says that the spirit does not die. The Plains Indians’ idea that heaven is a place of beauty and peace is widely accepted in Christianity. The vision of death being one in which a person is reunited with those who have died previously is a shared belief between the two cultures. While Christians call on the name “God,” the Plains Indian people say “the Creator, the Great Spirit.” The book also says those people who have led good lives, and those people who have led bad lives, go to separate places in the sky. The author fittingly provides a brief Indian prayer to Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit, at the end of his book.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Can you imagine yourself being a granddaughter or grandson of the Plains Indian woman?
- What would you eat if you were a Plains Indian child?
- How would you dress each day if you were a Plains Indian person?
- What would your life be like as a member of a tribe of the Plains Indian people?
- What are some of the differences between your culture, and the Plains Indian peoples’ culture?
- What are some of the similarities between your culture and the Plains Indian people’s culture?
- The book says that even the crows were mourning when the Plains Indian woman died. What do you think about this?
- How do the Plains Indian people view animals such as the buffalo, and the antelope?
- How do the Plains Indian people view death?
- Has your grandmother or grandfather died? Are you able to put this experience into words? Can you write down your feelings? If your have not lost a relative to death, can you write about your feelings?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Chris Feno.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 1 -3 (Ages 6-8), Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Faith Questions For...., Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary, Younger Elementary | Tagged: death, Native American, Plains Indian | Leave a Comment »