JOHNNY APPLESEED

THE LEGEND AND THE TRUTH

Yolen wants it both ways: Johnny Appleseed the legend and John Chapman the somewhat fruity (“There is no doubt Johnny is strange”) Swedenborgian apple-tree merchant. So she tells two tales here in a call-and-response fashion: a slice of legend followed by a piece of fact that either corrects or enlarges upon the history of Johnny Appleseed. Introducing each of the two-page spreads is a poetic stanza that serves forth a sample of the legend: “Tin-pot hat, / Ratty hair, / Clothes just rags, / Feet go bare.” Burke’s soft illustrations, with their deep-dish color and touch of old stencils, lend an antique and jolly mood to Johnny’s antics, which Yolen finds legend-worthy even without the tin-pot hat, for Appleseed was a man who made a real impact on the look of the frontier. Some of the speculation is on the strong side—“Because Father Nathaniel was not given the acres of land promised all colonial soldiers, some historians believe he was dismissed for stealing army supplies”—but this is mostly a smart, concise, perspective-setting look at Appleseed/Chapman’s life. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-059135-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU

This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne’s Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau’s undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85573-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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