Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants

Overview

Wild West chaos and creative problem solving are the force behind a well-loved American institution.

What’s a California miner to do when gold dust sifts right out of his holey pockets? With such a raggedy wardrobe, he may as well be mining in the vanilla (that is, his birthday suit)! Good thing Levi Strauss is out west, ready with his needle and a head full of bright ideas. With some quick thinking, quicker stitching, and handy arithmetic, Levi keeps all the gold rushers ...

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Overview

Wild West chaos and creative problem solving are the force behind a well-loved American institution.

What’s a California miner to do when gold dust sifts right out of his holey pockets? With such a raggedy wardrobe, he may as well be mining in the vanilla (that is, his birthday suit)! Good thing Levi Strauss is out west, ready with his needle and a head full of bright ideas. With some quick thinking, quicker stitching, and handy arithmetic, Levi keeps all the gold rushers clothed—and becomes a modern American hero. A Wild West tall tale, Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea celebrates creativity, innovation, and the ubiquitous item that fills the closets of grateful jeans wearers worldwide.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Using the scant facts available, Johnston (My Abuelita) offers a loose, tall-tale account, "stretche to near popping," of how Levi Strauss came to be credited with creating the blue jeans that still bear his name. Strauss traveled from New York to California in 1853, years after the pioneering '49ers ("He rushed slowly, so he came late and missed the gold. ‘Dang!' said Levi Strauss"). Noticing the miners' threadbare—or nonexistent—pants, Strauss realized their need for "pants that last" ("Corduroy, wool, tweed, flannel, burlap... they didn't last long in the gold fields. Soon, every miner was sluicing for color in his long johns—or naked as a jaybird"). The durability of the canvas tents Strauss created for the men led to an "aha moment"—and the first jeans. Johnston creates an unrepentantly exaggerated version of events that is sure to entertain, offering more factual information about Strauss in an author's note. Using a bright idea of his own, Innerst (Lincoln Tells a Joke) chronicles the raucous action in acrylic paintings on a canvas of, yes, old Levi's jeans. The denim's texture provides an appropriately rugged tone to the colorful proceedings. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"By the second spread, with miners working in their long johns or, discreetly, "in the vanilla," listeners will be thoroughly hooked. The humor is broad and the language inventive, yet reminiscent of the times."—Kirkus Reviews  

"Johnston creates an unrepentantly exaggerated version of events that is sure to entertain, offering more factual information about Strauss in an author's note. Using a bright idea of his own, Innerst (Lincoln Tells a Joke) chronicles the raucous action in acrylic paintings on a canvas of, yes, old Levi's jeans. The denim's texture provides an appropriately rugged tone to the colorful proceedings."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"An outlandish whopper of a tall tale, this story just begs to be read aloud with an old-timey Western accent. Johnston weaves together fact and fiction, resulting in a hilarious narrative about how Strauss became the denim king... A first choice for any collection, this book is worth its weight in denim–or gold."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Johnston antes up the readaloudability with traditional tall-tale banter and a bold-faced "Dang!" every time Strauss gets a brainstorm. Innerst extends the fun by painting the sartorially challenged miners on, what else, blue jeans, craftily leaving the blue untouched for jeans, tents, chalkboards, ocean, and bay, and letting flat-felled seams do double duty as the floor of a covered wagon or the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge."-Bulletin

Children's Literature - Susan Thomas
No one is sure about the true origin of blue jeans, but Johnston has taken the nuggets of a legend and created a story that will be hard to forget. The California Gold Rush and Levi Strauss's ability to see a need and capitalize on it are the source. But it is the details "fabricated" by Johnston that make this a fun adventure. It seems that the gold miners' clothing, especially their pants, was unsuitable for the hard work they were doing. Strauss arrives with bolts of fabric, needles and thread and, he recognizes a need when he sees men running around wearing barrels, with or without long johns underneath. Using figurative language, Johnston has written an engaging, fast-moving tale. Innerst's illustrations reflect the whimsical nature of the story and, appropriately, are painted on denim. Students will certainly connect to this story about the origin of one of their favorite brands. They will be able to follow Levi Strauss's problem-solving process, and hopefully come up with some creative ideas of their own. Reviewer: Susan Thomas
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—An outlandish whopper of a tall tale, this story just begs to be read aloud with an old-timey Western accent. Johnston weaves together fact and fiction, resulting in a hilarious narrative about how Strauss became the denim king. Students will delight in chiming in on the repeated exclamation "Dang!" As with all tall tales, outlandish explanations abound, and, in this particular yarn, readers learn about the creation of the beautiful city of San Francisco. An author's note gives the concrete facts about the true Levi Strauss. The illustrations are as unique as the tale, and children will be fascinated by the side-splitting facial expressions and zany action found on each page. Even more delightful is the fact that Innerst painted the scenes on old pairs of Levis. A first choice for any collection, this book is worth its weight in denim—or gold.—Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152061456
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 427,991
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Johnston 's many acclaimed picture books include My Abuelita, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, and The Worm Family, illustrated by Stacy Innerst.

Stacy Innerst  is an award-winning editorial artist and the illustrator of several picture books, including Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer's Lincoln Tells a Joke and Krull's M is for Music. www.stacyinnerst.com

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