John Henry (Tall Tales, Imagination Series)


The life story of John Henry, the African American railroad legend known as the "Steel Driving Man."

Presents the life story of John Henry, the African American railroad legend known as the "Steel Driving Man."

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The life story of John Henry, the African American railroad legend known as the "Steel Driving Man."

Presents the life story of John Henry, the African American railroad legend known as the "Steel Driving Man."

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Balcziak immediately captivates the reader by starting this story with the competition between John Henry and the steam drill machine that John Henry calls a "big iron heap." The story returns to the beginning of John Henry's life and continues chronologically. The story of John Henry's life prior to and post-Civil War are explained in non-threatening language. In addition to retelling Henry's life, the story also explains how railroads were built and how the steam-drill machines worked. The right amount of text is used with these explanations, and does not take away from the story of John Henry. Rose's line illustrations enhance the text and show the emotions of the characters. He superbly displays John Henry as a man of strength. However, one picture includes John Henry with hair, while the other pictures display him as bald. "The Life of John Henry" section tells how the legend of John Henry started and may cause confusion because it states that John Henry might have been black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. However, this retelling of John Henry's story (being a slave) indicates that he was black. The book includes a glossary of terms, a "Fast Facts" section and advises how to get more information about John Henry. This book is a part of "The Imagination" series. 2003, Compass Point Books,
— Jackie Kirby
School Library Journal
Gr 3-4-Dull, unattractive presentations in which the lines between fact and fiction are considerably blurred. No one has ever resolved whether John Henry really battled a steam drill and, if he did, where the contest took place. John Chapman's history is better documented, but it's safe to say that much of what we have heard about him is exaggerated. Nonetheless, it is problematic when an author says, as Balcziak does on the first page of Johnny Appleseed, "Some of it is really true!" without elucidating what are verifiable statements and what are products of his imagination. The color illustrations in both of these titles are reminiscent of schlocky comic-book art. The back matter, containing recipes, glossaries, suggested Web sites, and other sources of information, is considerably better than the body of the texts. The good news is that vastly superior books about John Henry, including Ezra Jack Keats's (Turtleback, 1965) and Julius Lester's (Dial, 1994), and a plethora of Johnny Appleseed titles, including Steven Kellogg's (Morrow, 1988), Reeve Lindbergh's (Little, Brown, 1993), Aliki's (S & S, 1971), Margaret Hodges's (Holiday, 1997), Will Moses's (Philomel, 2001), and Patricia Demuth's (Grosset & Dunlap, 1996) are all readily available.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756504571
  • Publisher: Capstone Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Series: Helpers in Our School Series
  • Pages: 24
  • Sales rank: 1,465,501
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Balcziak has written a number of books for children. When he is not writing, he enjoys going to plays, movies, and museums. Bill lives in Minnesota with his family.
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