Author Richard Van Camp's "What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?" Illustrated by George Littlechild

Sources Consulted

Works Consulted for this assignment:

Camp, Richard, and George Littlechild. A man called Raven. San Francisco, Calif.: Children’s Book Press, 1997. Print.

Camp, Richard, and George Littlechild. What’s the most beautiful thing you know about horses?. San Francisco, Calif.: Children’s Book Press, 1998. Print.

Edwards, Gail and Saltman, Judith.  2010. Picturing Canada: A history of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing.  University of Toronto Press.





Littlechild uses bright and vibrant colours in his artwork.  He uses paint and oil sticks to create both geometric and organic shapes and often uses black to outline figures and shapes.  Littlechild uses very little whitespace and incorporates collage into his work.

These elements can be used using tempera paint, oil pastels and collage to create student projects inspired by George Littlechild.


PDF: Art Lesson For Older Students-  Analysis of Traditional and Modern Aboriginal Life (adapted from

Art Lesson Tradition and Modern



 For Primary Students:

  • Create a Venn Diagram about horses and dogs to compare and contrast their characteristics
  • Van Camp’s Board books are excellent resources for a Roots of Empathy program

For all students:

  • An Author or Illustrator Study
  • The book lists many comparisons, some obvious some more subtle.  Read “What’s the Most Beautiful…”book to students once, then make a list of the comparisons they remember from the story.  Reread the story a second time to try to add to the list of comparisons.  Discuss how using comparisons in writing helps the reader to create imagery and to better understand the text and what the author is trying to say.
  • This challenge invites students to investigate the most beautiful (lovely or wonderful) feature about them as individuals. Richard Van Camp lists many lovely traits and features of horses.  After reading the story, draw students’ attention to the word “investigating” used by the author. Ask students, “What does this mean and how did the author investigate?” Ask students to identify the people consulted and what the author asked them as he investigated what was beautiful about horses. List the characters and their responses on a chart.  Make a list of wonderful the qualities that Van Camp discovers. Draw attention to the various features suggested–no answer is wrong, each adds to our information about horses. The story ends with the question, “What’s the Most beautiful thing you know about you?” Ask, “How would you investigate this question?” Brainstorm possible ways of investigating (e.g., ask a friend, ask their parents, get ideas from the picture book about what is beautiful). Using yourself as the example, examine what might be beautiful about people, going beyond physical features to include talents, gifts, background and interests. Model this investigation by asking, “What is beautiful about me?” and list your special features (e.g., I sing and play guitar, I tell funny stories, I let the class have centres). From this discussion, ask students how they might decide on the most beautiful thing about you. (older students can be challenged to focus on the use of poetic language).

Other writers  questions might be:

TOPIC: ___________________________________________________

What’s the most beautiful thing you know about __________________?

What’s the most interesting thing you know about __________________?

What’s the most boring thing you know about _____________________?

What’s the most troubling thing you know about ___________________?

What’s the most mysterious thing you know about _________________?

What’s the most difficult thing you know about ____________________?

What’s the most exciting thing you know about ____________________?

What’s the most dangerous thing you know about __________________?

What’s the most tragic thing you know about ______________________?

What’s the most compelling thing you know about _________________?

What’s the most fascinating thing you know about _________________?

What’s the most devastating thing you know about _________________?

What’s the most precious thing you know about ____________________?

What’s the most important thing for us all to know about ____________?

Camp, Richard, and George Littlechild. A man called Raven. San   Francisco, Calif.: Children’s Book Press, 1997. Print.

Camp, Richard. Angel wing splash pattern. Wiarton, Ont.: Kegedonce Press, 2002. Print.

Camp, Richard, and Christopher Auchter. Kiss Me Deadly. NWT Department of Health and Social Services.  2012. Print.

Camp, Richard. The lesser blessed. Vancouver, B.C.: Douglas & Molntyre :, 2004. Print.

Camp, Richard. The moon of letting go. Winnipeg, MB: Enfield & Wizenty, 2009. Print.

Camp, Richard. Nighty-night: a bedtime song for babies. Vancouver: McKellar & Martin Pub. Group, 2011. Print.

Camp, Richard, and Steven Keewatin Sanderson. Path of the warrior. Vancouver: Healthy Aboriginal Network, 2009. Print.

Camp, Richard, and George Littlechild. What’s the most beautiful thing you know about horses?. San Francisco, Calif. Children’s Book Press, 1998. Print.

Another Board Book Coming Soon:

“Little You” by Richard Van Camp with Illustrations by Julie Flett (Orca Books)


The German translation of his novel, The Lesser Blessed, (Die Ohne Segen Sind, translated by Ulrich Plenzdorf) won the Jugendliteraturpreis 2001 at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the juvenile category, the highest award for a translation awarded by the German government.

What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? was placed on the 1999 – 2000 Canadian Children’s BookCenter “Our Choice” Recommended List.

Richard was awarded “The Writer of the Year” Award for Children’s Literature in 1999 by the Wordcraft   Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for our children’s book A Man Called Raven.

Richard received the Canadian Author’s Association Air Canada Award in 1997, “honoring a young (under the age of thirty) Canadian writer deemed to show the most promise for the future in the field of literary creation.”

His baby book, Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, was the officialselection of the Books for BC Babies program and was given to every newborn baby in British Columbia in 2008.

Van Camp influenced by Aboriginal Canadian writer Michael Kusugak

Canadian people, places, and experiences are mentioned in the book, as well as, Dogrib and Cree words

Text and artwork have a modern twist but reflect aboriginal values and themes
The intended audience is for all children of all races
Both Van Camp and Littlechild draw on their Canadian heritage and experiences to create works that connect with viewers . In their interview with Judi Saltman they express their desire to create stories that reflect themes that modern-day Aboriginal people are facing

George Little Child is Metis from the Plains Cree Nation and now lives in Vancouver.

Born August 16, 1958 in Edmonton, Alberta and knew from a young age that he had a special talent as an artist to share with the world.

From the age of five until he was eighteen, George Littlechild lived with his foster-mother.  She was a very caring person and was largely responsible for nurturing his artistic and creative abilities. As a youngster, she sent him to art lessons, encouraged him to pursue his art throughout his school years, and insisted he go to Art College.

Littlechild wrote and illustrated a book called, This Land Is My Land which won the Jane Addams Picture Book Award and the National Parenting Publications Gold Medal.

“Cultural traditions are illustrated with brilliantly coloured, highly decorative and witty paintings…Image and text play with the differences between Van Camp, who belongs to “Dog People” and Littlechild, “who belongs to the horses of the Plains tradition, within the context of contemporary Aboriginal family’s daily life…  Thevalue of textuality for the preservation of culture and the transmission of oral narratives across time and space as witness to the place of Aboriginal people in contemporary society remains a powerful motivator for Indigenous creators of children’s literature.Cree writer and illustrator George Littlechild describes his work as reflecting the themes of First Nations experience: ‘that culturally we have survived; that we have risen above our historical experiences; that society has a lot to learn from First Nations culture and people; and that what we have to give to society is important” (Picturing Canada, 2010, p203-09).

Richard Van Camp is from the Dogrib Nation of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, he is half white and half Dogrib.  He is the eldest of four boys.

Van Camp is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing BFA Program, and holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

He currently teaches Creative Writing with an Aboriginal Focus at UBC. He has worked with the Emily Carr Institute teaching Creative Writing and Storytelling, as well as, the Justice Institute of British Columbia with their Aboriginal Leadership Program.  He is also CBC Radio’s Writer in Residence for their North by Northwest Program.

Van Camp describes his childhood as growing up in a loving home and family, with parents who were taxidermist.  He writes about values and themes such as family, identity, culture, respect and the essential question: “What does it mean to be Dogrib?” As well, Van Camp writes about animals as he believes that there is so much to learn from animals and that people have a
responsibility as caretakers of this earth.  He encourages children when he reads to them that, if there’s an animal they love, they should  learn as much as possible about that animal, and try to help them.

When Van Camp was asked if he’d like George Littlechild to illustrate his first novel for children, A Man Called Raven, in 1997, he was ecstatic.  Van Camp was already an enormous fan of Littlechild’s artwork.  Because Littlechild had to learn about Raven’s and the Dogrib people for A Man Called Raven, Litttlechild chose the topic for their second project, horses, an animal that is meaningful to his Cree people.  Van Camp, who is from the  North, tells how he had very little experience or knowledge of horses.  In just five short days in 1998 Van Camp began  asking the question, “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?” to  his family, friends and community.

“Why I became an author is very interesting and simple: nobody was writing the stories about my life and my experience, what I saw, what I felt, what I heard, what I sensed”.  (

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