Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):

Roubidoux, Noel. Why Coyote Isn’t Blue. (Within And it is still that way: legends / told by Arizona Indian children ; with notes by Byrd Baylor. New York : Scribner,1976. pp 8-9.

This version is similar to references to the story within motif number A2411. (listed having origins from North American Indians, Pima: Hull, Robert. Native North American Stories; New York: Thomson Learning, 1993. pp 32-34.) I took the three-line song from The Legend of the Blue Coyote, a version offered on a promotional site for a restaurant,  and adapted it to my needs.

Ethnic Origin: North American Indian, Pima

Running Time: 7 minutes

Power Center(s):

·         Excitement over the discovery that the color change happened after swimming only half a lap.

·         Realizing that not following the directions AND being so proud of oneself can result in an undesired consequences!

Why I chose this story:

Fascination with how things got to be the way they are.

Following detailed directions is generally the only way to enjoy success.

The kindness of the birds to teach another how to be beautiful and the payback coyote got when he cheated and tried to show off.

Previous career in dyeing and finishing of textiles with emphasis on testing for colorfastness to washing, pool water, light, etc. This story made me smile since coyote did not follow the prescribed directions!

Characters:  Coyote, two bluebirds


Introduce setting, characters, action:  Magic lake, birds, Coyote. Coyote observes birds swimming in magic lake turning a beautiful blue color. Asks them how he can be blue too.

Bluebirds teach coyote how to become blue, with emphasis repeating the lap swim across the lake four times every morning for four days and singing a special song—two lines before the lap is swum, one line at the end. Steps must be followed for color change to last.

Coyote focuses on learning the song, discovers himself changed to blue after only one length (half a lap) across the lake, sings song as he runs for the hills to show off. Finding no one to show off to, he admires himself instead of looking at the rocky path, trips and rolls over and over in the dirt. His coat is now and forever more the color of dirt.

            Had coyote paid attention to the birds’ directions, he would be blue today.


            Coyote envies the beautiful blue color of two birds he sees swimming in a blue lake. The birds freely offer directions and emphasize the importance of following the details exactly. Coyote sings first two lines of song, swims only one length, sings last line of song (I’m all blue). He admires himself so much that he leaves the lake, running up to and along a rocky trail. He trips, rolls in the dirt, and is now the color of dirt.

 Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

(Simple song – adapted to fit tune of My country ‘tis of thee)

            Here is the blue lake,

                        I happily dive on in, [Action: swimming, then when out after a LAP, sing last:]

                                    I am all blue.


Birds demonstrate what a lap is (as opposed to just a length), stress importance of four repeats of the sequence on four consecutive mornings.


Order of steps: Sing first two lines/ swim a complete lap/ finish song “I am all blue”


Tripping action when not paying attention

Coyote rolling in the soft dirt and becoming brown.


Audience(why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):

Using the characteristics of preschoolers (ages 3-5) described in Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature in the Elementary School (1993):

Short attention spans: would be more likely to behave like the coyote who thinks the result of turning blue is real after only swimming only one way across the lake.

Appeals to preschoolers’ curiosity about how things work. Turning the color of dirt when coyote trips is an imaginative explanation for both why and how the animal did not stay blue, the color that he desired.

The moral (that one must follow directions exactly) fits into preschoolers’ tendencies to make absolute judgments about what is right and wrong. 

In Piaget’s preoperational developmental stage (in ages 2-7), repetition is important. Four times, four days, coupled with the three lines of the same song are the important details for coyote to learn. However, he only remembered the three lines of the song became distracted by the initial results.

In a participatory sense, (and if appropriate in the setting) asking children in the audience to move their arms as if swimming and to stop and sing the appropriate lines of the song at the right time can help them think about the rhythm of speech and movement which are important in developing confidence with their coordination.

Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?

Several other versions of the same story were found by searching different combinations of must-have words or entire phrases in Google. Partial book titles were looked up in WorldCat. For comparison to the tale I will tell, I chose the version titled “Bluebird and the Coyote” at:

I found this by searching for only “coyote” AND “bluebird” as must-have words on October 5, 2003. This was the 13th of 13,100 results when searching Google in this way.

For a variant, I removed looked for the stories referenced under motif A2411.1.3.2 “Color of coyote.”

Goldin, Barbara D. Coyote and the firestick: A Pacific Northwest Indian tale. San Diego: Harcourt-Brace, 1996 (picturebook).

Brief comparison of all versions/variants (in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.)

The Bluebird and the Coyote contained a four-line song that’s verb tense felt awkward to me. Attempts at rewording it seemed to force it to lose its flavor. Although the directions to become blue are slightly different, coyote follows them exactly but is punished for his vanity, tripping while looking at his shadow which he hoped would also be blue. Bluebird said he (or she) “only” went in four times and coyote had some courage issues to deal with. These small but important differences hampered my ability to have the flexibility to tell it in a fun way stressing the importance of the repetition.

“Telling” a story from a picturebook, such as Goldin’s Coyote and the firestick, and making it my own would be a greater challenge than I am ready for. Although, as a variant and ignoring the obvious focus on the tale through illustration, the language is more descriptive of coyote in the trickster role. It lacks the rhythm that I found I could take liberty with from the version I selection. The psychological jump of recognizing the similarity between attitudes of animals and humans in Native American folklore raises the age appropriateness of the story above the preschool level.