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The Legend and the Truth

by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Jim Burke

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-059135-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

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)