It’s fall and apple season is upon us. When we bite into a crisp juicy apple, our thoughts often turn to the character of Johnny Appleseed. Today, September 26, is Johnny Appleseed Day, in honor of his birthday (and you can celebrate again on March 11, the day he died, which some have proclaimed to be Johnny Appleseed Day, although to me a fall date makes much more sense).
Jane Yolen has written a new book looking at this real-life legend. Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, illustrated by Jim Burke, looks at each stage of John Chapman’s life, from his birth, to his growing up years, to his faith, to his legendary apple-planting years.
Each page has a bit of verse touching on that stage of his life, “the history,” which elaborates on some of the details, and “the fact” that attempts to highlight what we really know from the lore that the legend has created.
Jim Burke’s paintings that accompany the text are gorgeous and richly colored, adding visual interest and personality to the story.
I wonder if there is nothing that Jane Yolen can’t do. She is the author of many fiction picture books (some of which I reviewed at 5 Minutes for Mom) for children from preschool to grade school. I also recently came across her book Sea Queens: Women Pirates around the World.
In Sea Queens, Yolen also strives to separate fact from fiction as she profiles women pirates in a chapter-book format. She illuminates the lives and adventures of women from Persia to Holland to England to America, uncovering little-known nuggets and debunking common myths such as walking the plank:
“Ask yourself — what pirates actually had time for such things? In the midst of battle, they simply hacked their enemies to death and flung the bodies over the ship’s side” (page 4).”
Given the title alone, I’m sure that a boy would hesitate to read this, but if he’s a fan of pirates, he would enjoy the stories and details given here. And looking at the excerpt above, I ask you, does that look like it was written in purple ink for girls’ eyes only? No way.
The above quote also shows what Yolen does best here — inviting the reader to open up his or her imagination and wonder along with her and historians to separate truth from fiction.
Managing Editor Jennifer Donovan is a contributing editor at 5 Minutes for Mom. She has been blogging at Snapshot for over two years. You’ll almost always find her holding either a book, a fork, a child’s hand, her laptop, or some combination therein.
I agree Jane Yolen is amazingly versatile. I particularly enjoyed reading “Take Joy” this summer, a sort of memoir about her writing career where her love of the art of writing really comes through and inspires. It kind of makes you understand why she’s so good at what she does.
Carrie K. says
We love Yolen at our house, too. My daughter and I both loved The Devil’s Arithmetic. She’s also the author of one of my favorite books on writing – Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft.