Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1993 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

A 1993 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 4-8):

The Legend of Jimmy Spoon
by Kristiana Gregory

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: 165 pages. 1990. $14.95 (ISBN 0-200506-4). HBJ. Paper: $4.95 (ISBN 0-15-243812-2). Odyssey/HBJ.
GENRES: Historical fiction, adventure
THEMES: Coming-of-age, Shoshoni Indians, Mormons, pioneer life, families, running away, independence, love, grief, war, peace
READABILITY: Fourth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Fifth through eighth grade


Gregory's story, based in part on a memoir by Elijah Nicholas Wilson, who lived among the Shoshones, isn't cohesive, but it is vivid....Sharp detail, rather than plot or characterization, carries the story, but readers are likely to stay with it, taking away some long-lasting impressions." Booklist 86(21):2088. July '90. Denise Wilms.

"Reminiscent of Conrad Richter's classic The Light in the Forest, but geared to a younger audience...A sequel would be welcome! This is a well researched historical novel complete with Shoshoni glossary and a bibliography. It also tells an exciting story. There is nothing more appealing to young teens than the idea of running away from a humdrum life to find adventure and love. The only problem is that many of the chapters are very short, creating a rather choppy effect throughout the book." Voice of Youth Advocates 13(5):281 Dec '90. Paula J. Lacey. (Rating: #4-quality, #3-popularity)


Kristiana Gregory received the 1989 Golden Kite Award for Jenny in the Tetons, the first of her "Great Episodes" series for Harcourt. The Legend of Jimmy Spoon, based on a real hero - Nick Wilson, is the second book of that series. Just prior to publication, the fictional name was inserted because Nick's son, Charlie Wilson, changed his mind about having his father named in the book. Gregory says the change moved the book from a more "biographical novel" position to fiction. However, she says the book "remains as faithful to Native American history and Pioneer history as possible." Gregory has said her writing is her "way of sharing with them (young readers) my love of history and my deep appreciation for our first Americans." Gregory is a book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, and currently lives in Redlands, CA with her husband and two young sons. She is working on sequels to "Jenny" and "Jimmy Spoon," as well as a book on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Earthquake at Dawn (HBJ, 1992).


Disappointed in not receiving a horse for his birthday, Jimmy Spoon sneaks away with two Shoshoni boys when they offer him a horse and a chance for adventure. He is surprised to learn he is not with the Indians for a visit, but is there to become a replacement son of the chief's mother. Since he is too far from home to find his way back, Jimmy struggles to adjust to the Shoshone way of life. The next three years are filled with excitement and danger. He learns to hunt, tame horses, and appreciate the Shoshoni lifestyle.


A terrific choice for either individual reading or sharing aloud with younger students (third through fifth graders). The forty short chapters can easily be combined. Each chapter heading specifically identifies the episode.


More than anything, twelve-year-old Jimmy Spoon wants a horse and a more exciting life. Helping out in his father's store is so boring. Jimmy has been secretly befriended by two Shoshoni boys. They offer him the horse Pinto Bean, if he'll come to visit their village.
Three nights later, when the moon was full, Jimmy slipped away from his sleeping family. I'll just be gone a day, long enough for them to miss me, he thought. Long enough to earn the pinto. He was taking a chance that his father would let him keep it. Nampa and Ga-mu were waiting at the edge of town with their horses. Pinto Bean was adorned with a red blanket under an elk-horn saddle that had no stirrups. There were feathers in her mane..."Eee-up!" the Shoshoni boys shouted and they were off, galloping across a dry riverbed, north, into the moonlit night. (page 13, hardback edition; pages 14-15, paperback edition)
Jimmy Spoon's adventure has begun and lasts a lot longer than a day.


Jimmy Spoon has voluntarily accompanied two Shoshoni boys to their village. Adjusting to his new life has its ups and downs. Some of the children are jealous of Jimmy's status as adopted son of the chief's mother. One boy, Poog, tries to embarrass Jimmy.
Laughter burst from the children. Jimmy was frightened. Without thinking, he kicked Poog in the leg as hard as he could; the kick landed Poog cheek-down in the dirt. Suddenly a large, screaming woman pushed her way into the ring of children. It was Poog's mother. She stuck her face right up to Jimmy's, their noses almost touching. He felt the sharp tip of her knife against his throat. His knees went weak with fear. He wanted to cry. His mother had never raised her voice to him, yet here was a mother ready to kill him. (page 21, hardback edition; page 24, paperback edition)
Maybe Jimmy won't survive his time with this Shoshoni tribe. But maybe, his life will become a legend.


Current Events:

Following a discussion about war and peace (between the white settlers and Indians, and among the Indian tribes themselves), Jimmy says to his adopted brother, Chief Washakie, "You don't have to like each other. You just have to all want peace." Ask students to apply that statement to current world conflicts. Address the issue of peace, discuss conflict resolution, and other related topics. Refer to The Big Book for Peace by Ann Durrell, et al (Dutton, 1990), Peace Begins With You by Katherine Scholes (Sierra Club, 1990), and/or Young Peacemakers Project Book by Kathleen M. Fry-Miller, et al (Brethren Press, 1988).

Environmental Studies:

The Shoshoni Indians teach Jimmy their ways of being kind to the earth. For example when they kill a buffalo, they waste nothing and they never hunt unnecessarily. An appropriate tie-in book is Keepers of the Earth by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac (Fulcrum, 1989), a collection of Native American tales related to environmental issues with hands-on activities included. Provide students with some of the many recent books about what they can do in their communities for the environment: The Future for the Environment by Mark Lambert (Watts, 1986), Save the Earth: An Action Handbook for Kids (Knopf, 1990) by Betty Miles, 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth (Andrews and McNeel, 1990), Earth Book for Kids: activities to help heal the environment by Linda Schwartz (Learning Works, 1990), Our World by Gayle Bittinger (Warren Publishing, 1990), Earth Day Every Day by Jill C. Wheeler (Abdo & Daughters, 1991), Earth Day by Linda Lowery (Carolrhoda, 1991), and/or Going Green: a kid's handbook to saving the planet by John Elking (Viking, 1990).

Students can choose a "going green" project either individually or as a class. Celebrate Earth Day in April either in conjunction with this book or as a follow-up project. Kids can join or form a Kids for Saving Earth (KSE) Club in your school or community. For information contact Kids for Saving Earth, P.O. Box 47247, Plymouth, Minn., 55447. Find out what other children are doing about pollution by getting in touch with Kids Against Pollution, P.O. Box 775, Closter, N.J. 07624


Since this book lacks a map, students can make a map of the locations Jimmy visits with his adopted Shoshoni tribe. Use a map which includes Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to trace Jimmy's travels throughout the book.

Language Arts/Audio Visual:

Author Ken Thomasma reads his book Naya Nuki (Baker Book House, 1983) on three cassette tapes, produced by Mediaworks, Inc. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 800-525-7344. This book is the story of a Shoshoni girl who escapes after being kidnapped Plains Indians. He precedes the reading of each chapter with commentary concerning the research and writing of his book. Provide these tapes to further enhance understanding of the Shoshoni Indians and what is involved in research and writing.

Social Studies/Indian Culture:

Every culture develops unique methods for survival and making day-to-day life as simple as possible. The Shoshoni taught Jimmy practical tricks such as burning buffalo dung for a smokeless fire, using horsetail hair for fishing lines, holding a pebble in one's mouth to quench thirst, etc. Invite a speaker (Forest Service employee, Native American, Mountain Man club member, etc.) to teach survival skills to your students. This person may provide information on finding food in the wild, reading maps, marking trails, etc.


Some Other Books by This Author

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