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The Story of a Legend

by Will Moses & illustrated by Will Moses

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23153-6
Publisher: Philomel

Many are the available picture-book tales of half-legendary wanderer John Chapman, but this one (not really a picture book) merits consideration, both for its appealing folk-art–style illustrations (Moses is an artistic, as well as genetic, descendant of Grandma Moses), and for its thoughtful prose portrait of a man who, Moses suggests, “represents the best qualities of the American character.” The author tucks a few tall-sounding tales into his narrative, but in general sticks closely to the historical record, following Chapman from his early years in Massachusetts, through decades of planting and preaching in Pennsylvania, the Ohio Territory, and, finally, Indiana, where he tended orchards to the last. Ranging from spread-fillers to vignettes, the paintings are nearly all landscapes, with a small, lanky, oddly dressed figure placed amid tapestries of orchards and fields, or paddling along waterways in a birch bark canoe. Just as his apple trees “helped blaze the trail westward,” so, avers the author, should his “kindness and humanity, [his] industrious, independent spirit” make him a “beacon to follow” for today’s young readers. Make room on the shelf for this slim volume, too. (Biography. 9-11)