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Knots on a Counting Rope
Knots on a Counting Rope
Knots on a Counting Rope
by Bill, Jr. Martin
Illustration by Ted Rand

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.
Age: 5 Year-olds | Title: Knots on a Counting Rope  |  Author: Bill, Jr. Martin  |  Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
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.

This Reading Rainbow book creatively tells the story of a Native American boy exceeding expectations to overcome obstacles in his young life. The story is told in pure dialogue between a young boy and his grandfather. The words have different margins, depending on who is talking, which visually adds to the back-and-forth dialogue. The two characters often finish one another's sentences and end up telling the story together, but no indication of who is talking beyond the margins is given, as the characters have very distinctive tones and voices. The tone of the story is authentic, as the boy obviously already knows by heart the story he begs his grandfather to tell, often interjecting with prompting questions and added details he thinks the grandfather left out. The artwork is compelling, painted in strong water colors providing shading and great depth. The artist included fine details in the native jewelry worn, the mixture of earthy and vibrant colors, and the expressions on the young boy's face as he hears his story.

This story opens the door for conversation with your child about overcoming odds and not letting challenges impede their dreams. Readers gradually learn that the young Native boy is blind, but manages to still ride his horse and compete in a race by 'seeing' through his other senses. The scene of the grandfather teaching the boy what 'blue' means through describing "the sunrise, the sky, the song of the birds..." is beautiful in its symbolism and feeling of familial love and respect. Your child will likely have many questions about the Native culture, the boy's blindness, and the prominent horse.

When my five-year-old friend's, Sam, mom read him this book, he wanted to know the story of his birth, like the boy's grandfather explained to him. Sam asked if there was a storm when he was born too, and where his name came from. Sam's mom explained that he was born on a sunny day in the afternoon, and he was named Sam after his grandpa. Sam was quite proud to learn this. He later told me, "I'm named Sam, like the 'sun'...and my grandpa."


My son really loved the pictures. He wanted to go slowly so he could see the details and take in the colors and landscape. The illustrations are like an art gallery and beautiful! The story is about how the boy was named. I have always told my children that their name was my first gift to them. It is a name of character and love. Every birthday, I tell my children the story of their birth and why they received their name. It's been a wonderful tradition.

This book has that same tradition. The rope is a metaphor for the passing of time and the passage of the boy as he gains confidence, witnesses his own value and faces his challenge of blindness. It is difficult to determine if Li'l Man or I loved this book more. I can tell you it's on his list tonight for bedtime story and it's sitting on the table waiting for his sister to come home from her first day of school.

--Julee Morrison, Mommy's Memorandum

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