John Henry

John Henry

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Overview

Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney's warm, humorous retelling of a popular African-American folk ballad.

When John Henry was born the birds, bears, rabbits, and even a unicorn came to see him. He grew so fast, he burst right through the porch roof, and laughed so loud, he scared the sun! Soon John Henry is swinging two huge sledgehammers to build roads, pulverizing boulders, and smashing rocks to smithereens. He's stronger than ten men and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill. Nothing can stop John Henry, and his courage stays with us forever.

A Caldecott Honor Book

* "This is a tall tale and heroic myth, a celebration of the human spirit . . . The story is told with rhythm and wit, humor and exageration, and with a heart-catching immediacy that connects the human and the natural world. " —Booklist, starred review

"Another winning collaboration from the master storyteller and gifted artist of Tales of Uncle Remus fame." —School Library Journal

"A great American hero comes fully to life in this epic retelling filled with glorious, detailed watercolors . . .  This carefully crafted updating begs to be read aloud for its rich, rhythmic storytelling flow, and the suitably oversize illustrations amplify the text." —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140566222
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 12/01/1999
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 102,741
Product dimensions: 9.50(w) x 11.46(h) x 0.16(d)
Lexile: AD620L (what's this?)
Age Range: 4 - 8 Years

About the Author

Julius Lester is a celebrated author whose accolades include a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award. He is also a National Book Award Finalist, a National Book Critics Circle nominee, and a recipient of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. In addition to his critically acclaimed writing career, Mr. Lester has distinguished himself as a civil rights activist, musician, photographer, radio talk-show host, and professor. For thirty-two years he taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Jerry Pinkney is one of America's most admired children's book illustrators. He has won the Caldecott Medal and five Caldecott Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, five New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Awards, the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Society of Illustrators' Original Art Show Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other prizes and honors. Recently a member of the National Council of the Arts and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has also served on the U.S. Postal Service Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee. His artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Jerry Pinkney lives with his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, in Westchester County, New York.

Customer Reviews

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John Henry 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Synopsis: When John Henry was born animals from everywhere came to get a glimpse of the new baby. John Henry grew up to be very big and strong. Once when he was a young boy he was able to build a porch, add a wing to the house, and chop down an acre of trees into fireplace logs all before supper. John Henry could outrun horses and could break through boulders with his sledgehammer better than dynamite. After John Henry completed remarkable tasks, a rainbow would appear around his shoulders and he would sing. One day John Henry made a bet that he could drill through a mountain faster than a steam drill. As always, he flabbergasted people when he was able to drill more than a machine. His power was extraordinary and the people cheered for his amazing accomplishment. The rainbow had appeared on his shoulders and John Henry fell to the ground. After he had died people swore they heard the rainbow whisper words saying that dying is not important, what matters most is how well you lived. Evaluation: In the beginning of the book there is a brief history written about John Henry and the quest to discover if he was a real person or not. The original source of the story was given and readers learn that John Henry achieved his place in American literature through a novel, John Henry (1931) by Roark Bradford. The sources for the Black folk ballad were also mentioned since this book contains lines directly from the songs about John Henry. This historical information gives the reader good background knowledge in order to have a better understanding of the story. The plot of the story is very simple and direct. The language is written in a way that portrays the language that John Henry would have used during his time. This really makes the reader connect to the story and feel like they become part of John Henry¿s world while reading. The theme of the story is that people need to take pride in hard work and have good personal qualities. The moral at the end of the story is that is does not matter if we die because all people will die. What truly matters is how you live your life because that is something that lives on long after the body dies. The illustrations in the book add to the story and add details about John Henry¿s culture. The reader needs to examine these pictures closely because they have an abundance of details that make the story come alive.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A lovely telling of the tale with exquisite illustrations. This also has a nice little bit about where the legend of John Henry came from.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a re-telling of the legend of John Henry, a man with incredible strength and speed, combined with a willingness to work hard and always lend a hand. The narrative is so beautifully written that it is almost poetic. My favorite lines contain an important message: ¿Dying ain¿t important. Everybody does that. What matters is how well you do your living.¿ The illustrations were a bit disappointing. They are well executed technically, but with very few bright colors, giving the illustrations all a muddy, faded out look.
paroof on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When you look at the cover of this book it looks so serious. The illustrations are so beautiful it's a shock really to read the text and find it so funny. Of course on closer examination the pictures are reflective of the tall tale. This is a great book for the 7-8 year-old crowd.
crew28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The poetic language in this book makes me want to read it again and again.
justinscott66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This Caldecott winner immediately brings to mind Pete Seeger's (and Bruce Springsteen's version) song "John Henry." The book, like the song, follows John Henry's life from birth to death and all the struggles in between. A great companion when exploring other tall tales with predominantly white character heroes. Pinkney's watercolors and Julius Lester's rendition of the age old tall tale of John Henry brings to life a hero for primary school children no matter the color of their skin.
LeAnn327 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love using this book in my first grade classroom as a resource for satisfying Georgia Performance Standard SS1H2. It states- ¿students will read or listen to American folktales.¿ John Henry is one of the folkheroes included in this standard. This book takes students on an emotional rollercoaster ride, but it is one they always enjoy. The book immediately captures the attention of students as they wait in anticipation to see if John Henry will win the race against the steam engine. Their cheers for his victory, however, are quickly replaced with disbelief at his death. At the end they are always intrigued, however, at the thought that he is buried on the White House lawn and can still be heard singing.
mrsstone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! It is one of my favorites!
farfromkansas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Julius Lester¿s take on the John Henry legend takes some creative liberties with the story but maintains the core message: that one determined man can do more than any man-made creation. Lester¿s writing is simple poetry, incorporating a number of original metaphors and images to complement the John Henry myth, and making cross-temporal references to connect with today¿s young readers. Even more powerful than Lester¿s text, though, are Jerry Pinkney¿s breathtaking illustrations: they capture the majesty and humanity in John Henry¿s actions, breathing life into a legend whose origins are still shrouded in mystery. This book, although not perfect, is a masterpiece in the making.Citation:Lester, Julius, and Jerry Pinkney. John Henry. New York: Dial, 1994. Print.
teason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like any story about John Henry, the book leaves you sad yet inspired. John Henry is the story of a railroad worker who battles a steam-powered machine for not only his job but also the jobs of all the other workers. In the end, John Henry wins, but his victory his bittersweet because he ends up collapsing from exhaustion and dying. The illustrations were beautiful and fit perfectly with the flow of the words. I think that it will be good for children to read because it is important that children learn about loss.
JohannaJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of John Henry and his hammer.
aconant05 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a superbly written tall tale about John Henry. John Henry was barely a baby for a day when he started growing. By the next day he was building all sorts of things. He could outrun a horse, was more powerful than dynamite, and could hammer faster than a steam drill. Unfortunately his super speed causes his heart to burst and he dies. The townspeople remember him for what a full life he lived.The best part about this book was the analogies and hyperboles. It is chalk full of over the top statements which truly give this book that tall tale feel.
elpowers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting tall tale, very creative. Pictures are a bit dark.
Eclouse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a tall tale about a man who was able to beat a machine drilling through a cliff in order to expand the railroad in the West. This book is good to use for cultural studies or even just to inspire students.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully written and illustrated, this is a folk tale that any child would enjoy. The dialogue is song-like and instantly engaging. The pictures are very intricate and beautiful watercolors.
awiltenburg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall a nice book! The story of John Henry is told with colorful statements and nice imagery....The Almighty said, "Its getting too noisy down there!" "....shining and shimmering in the dust and grit like hope that never dies...." IDEA:
kmacneill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book. This book is full of so many good, creative writing ideas for students to emulate in their own writing. This book could be used for an exaggeration minilesson, a personification minilesson, or a voice minilesson, just to name a few. The pictures enhance the memorable, creative language that Lester uses. Lester would be a great author for students to stand on the should of. He would also be interesting to do an Author's study on. The book could also be used to teach the importance and impact of powerful illustrations. I have so many ideas on how to use this book that I'm having a hard time writing them all. This book also packs a punch with a strong hook right at the beginning and a impactful ending. The beginning uses a strong (and steady) voice which carries through the whole story until the ending.
jessgee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary:This is the story of John Henry, a big man with a big heart. John Henry is an american folk hero. He works hard, and he inspires those around him.Personal Experience: I've always loved the story of John Henry. This book does a really good job of telling the story. The illustrations are really good.Classroom Extensions:I would definitely use this book during Black History Month. It is a great story for all children to read.It could also be used to demonstrate hard work.
szanes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully painted, this book is a truly deserving award winner. The text also paints a picture with extremely descriptive language and a dignified retelling of a classic tall tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Caldecott, You can still hear the hammers ringing out ¿RINGGGG! RINGGGG!¿ John Henry is a man of unconquerable spirit. He works hard and large at whatever he sets his hand to. Nothing can stop John Henry-no boulder, no mountain, and definitely no steam drill. This is neat book and my kids love books like this one. Julius Lester was born on January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, MO and currently lives in Belchertown, MA. Bibliography Lester, Julius. John Henry. New York: Puffin Books, 1994.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Henry, written by Julius Lester is a brilliant retelling of an old classic. The illustrations are magnifcent children as well as adults will be delighted by the breathtaking colors. This is a wonderful addition to any child's library.