JOHN HENRY by Julius Lester

JOHN HENRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Onto the page bounds the colossus John Henry, man of legend, man of myth (though the preface keeps things off balance on that point). John was the archetype for the "Just Do It" generation; he was all bustle and business, surrounded by an aura of triumph. Lester hits upon all of John's special moments: his stupendous growth spurt; his humbling of Ferret-Faced Freddy; his smashing the great stone so fast that he creates a natty rainbow around his shoulders; and, of course, the climactic duel with the steam drill deep in the hills of West Virginia. John smoked the drill, but his big heart burst in the process. Lester (The Last Tales of Uncle Remus, p. 70, etc.; The Man Who Knew Too Much, see below) wisely makes it clear that you don't have to be John Henry to get things done: You just need the will; there's a bit of John to be tapped in us all. Pinkney's watercolors walk a smart and lovely line between ephemerality and sheer natural energy. The rainbow whispers the lesson here: "Dying ain't important. Everybody does that. What matters is how well you do your living." Amen. (Folklore/Picture book. All ages)
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8037-1606-0
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994




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