SEED BY SEED

THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF JOHN "APPLESEED" CHAPMAN

A simple introduction to an American legend turns up inspiration for making the world a better place.

Frontier nurseryman John Chapman, born in Massachusetts just before the Revolutionary War, had traveled thousands of miles by his death and covered the Ohio River Valley with apple-tree nurseries, showing pioneer families how to start the orchards that would strengthen their attachment to the land. He had already become the legendary “Johnny Appleseed,” known for singular habits of dress, kindness to animals, friendship with pioneer and original settlers and a love of books. Saintly stories (“The Native Americans respected him for his spiritual bond with his surroundings, his kinship with all that grew and lived”) about Chapman inform this account. Codell says that Johnny Appleseed “left five [footsteps] for us to fill: Use what you have. Share what you have. Respect nature. Try to make peace where there is war. You can reach your destination by taking small steps.” Perkins’ watercolor, gouache and collage illustration is lively and disarming; a stitched sampler across one full opening offers rolling hills with apple trees in both blossom and fruit, Johnny Appleseed in the distance. Sources and acknowledgments appear on the title-page verso, while a final page offers suggestions for celebrating Johnny Appleseed’s September 26 birthday, including a simple apple pie recipe and the graceful Swedenborgian hymn many children will know as "the Johnny Appleseed song."

Sweet. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-145515-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen.

BEING YOU

Words addressed to children aimed at truth-telling, encouraging, and inspiring are accompanied by pictures of children of color going about their days.

“This story is about you,” the narrator opens, as a black boy looks up toward readers, a listening expression on his face. A multiracial group of children romp in a playground to encouraging words: “you are… / a dancer / a singer / in charge of the game.” Then comes a warning about the “whispers” out in the world that “tell you who you are / But only you and love decide.” There is advice about what to do when you “think there is nowhere safe”: “Watch a bird soar / and think, / Me too.” It asks readers to wonder: “If there was a sign on your chest / what would it say?” Children argue and show frustration and anger for reasons unclear to readers, then they hold up signs about themselves, such as “I am powerful” and “I am talented.” A girl looks hurt, and a boy looks “tough” until someone finds them “sitting there wondering / when the sky will blue.” While the words are general, the pictures specify a teacher, who is brown-skinned with straight black hair, as one who “can see you.” While young readers may find the wording unusual, even obscure in places, the nurturing message will not be lost.

Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-021-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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