Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman

( 1 )


His real name was John Chapman.
He grew apples.

But wait. So what?
Why should we remember him and read about him and think about him and talk about him today,
more than two hundred years after he was born?
Why should we call him a hero?

Esmé Raji Codell and Lynne Rae ...

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His real name was John Chapman.
He grew apples.

But wait. So what?
Why should we remember him and read about him and think about him and talk about him today,
more than two hundred years after he was born?
Why should we call him a hero?

Esmé Raji Codell and Lynne Rae Perkins show us, in eloquent words and exhilarating pictures, why Johnny Appleseed matters now, perhaps more than ever, in our loud and wired and fast-paced world.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Codell's lilting text and Perkins's sumptuous landscapes will have urban parents ready to up-and-to-the-country.
—Pamela Paul
Publishers Weekly
Born in 1774, John Chapman is better known now as Johnny Appleseed. "Why should we remember him today, more than two hundred years later, and call him a hero?" asks Codell, distilling the answer into five tenets Chapman lived by: "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." In Codell's admiring prose, Chapman emerges as a kind of 18th-century American Francis of Assisi. Working mostly in watercolor and gouache, Perkins, too, knows how to use what she has: burlap, wooden planks, and embroidery make for a few showstopping spreads, underscoring the ingenuity and care Chapman was known for. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
The story of John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed endures. Many versions, including those written by Aliki, Steven Kellogg, Reeve Lindberg and Jane Yolen, are still in print. This newest version, beautifully illustrated by Newbery Medal winner Perkins, is outstanding. The artwork, which combines many varied media ranging from watercolor to woodcarving to gouache to burlap to embroidery, creates a perfect setting for the text. In a plea for heeding the tenets Chapman lived by, this account of his life unfolds by combining facts with clearly stated but not actually known information such as how it is popularly assumed that Johnny Appleseed wore his cooking pot on his head when he traveled. Other details inform readers that he was a vegetarian, loved animals and was accepted by both Native Americans and settlers throughout the Ohio Valley and beyond. A case is even made that he was also the "frontier's first librarian" because he shared books and stories with families he met. Many of the apples eaten today are most likely descended from trees planted by Johnny Appleseed during his miles and miles of travel on foot across the frontier. The book ends with a request that youngsters do a good deed each day to help make our world a better place. On the final page is a recipe for apple pie and suggestions for celebrating Chapman's birthday on September 26th. Youngsters will certainly enjoy this book in a story time setting or independently. Teachers and parents can use this book as a tool for teaching respect for the environment and positive behavior. Purchase is recommended. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—This picture book focuses on Chapman's way of life and the five "examples" he planted for future generations along with his apple seeds: "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." Codell points out that Chapman collected apple seeds from cider-press owners, who had no use for them, and he sometimes traded his trees for clothing. He gave away seedlings to those who could not afford to pay, lent his books to settlers, and entertained them with stories. He planted medicinal herbs and studied their uses, showed extraordinary kindness to animals, and developed a spiritual bond "with all that grew and lived." There is a homespun feel to the watercolor illustrations, a bit of cartoon in the few places that mention Appleseed legends, and a touch of folk art in scenes like the one showing Chapman sowing seeds in a grassy field adjoining apple orchards in all four seasons of growth. A purposeful conceit is woven throughout-a modern boy and girl find themselves back in Chapman's day, observing firsthand how he improved the world, deed by deed. The book ends with the challenge, "And now it's your turn. One small deed, every day. What seed will you plant?" Jane Yolen's Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth (HarperCollins, 2008) is more biographical; Reeve Lindbergh's Johnny Appleseed (Little, Brown, 1990) is a poetic tribute to Johnny Appleseed, the legend.—Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
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)
The Washington Post
A friend to Native Americans and pioneers heading West, and to animals large and small, Chapman was a highly personable soul, and Perkins's images are likewise extremely engaging. From the shiny apples on the book jacket to the scenes of Chapman roaming the countryside, the artwork invites readers to settle down and enjoy the view.
—Abby McGanney Nolan
New York Times Book Review
“Lilting text and . . . sumptuous landscapes.”
Horn Book (starred review)
Praise for Pictures from Our Vacation:School Library Journal Best Books“Perkins is exhilaratingly free in her approach to the picture book form.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061455155
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/21/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 291,955
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.78 (w) x 11.12 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Esmé Raji Codell is an award-winning author and public school librarian who lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and son. Always inspired by the way John Chapman managed to change the landscape of our country by planting a few small seeds, Esmé Raji Codell reads aloud to children every day, believing that that is another small seed that can change the landscape of our country. She is a proud honorary member of the Johnny Appleseed Society, strives to help urban children see how they can follow in her favorite farmer's footsteps, and likes to eat her apple pie À la mode. You can visit to find out more about Johnny Appleseed, including activities, suggested reading, and more.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A positive message told through the legacy of Johnny Appleseed

    In this book, the fast paced world we live in is put on hold to tell the tale of Johnny Appleseed. Using the life and examples that John “Appleseed” Chapman set in his travels across America planting apple trees, a wider moral story is told among the bright and uniquely illustrated pages.
    Part fact, part fiction, the tale of Johnny Appleseed’s travels across the United States usually focuses solely on apples. In Seed by Seed, a more in depth look at the man, John Chapman, provides a greater detailed account of his deeds and the influence he had on shaping the nation in his small way. Primarily by leaving five examples to follow: Use what you have, share what you have, respect nature, try to make peace where there is war, and you can reach your destination by taking small steps.
    Codell uses these examples to highlight some of the lesser known details of what Chapman did during his lifetime. As she shifts the focus away from apples and towards the strong moral man he was, children learn of his love of nature and animals, his storytelling and books he shared, and his relationship between Native Americans and the pioneers.
    The legend of Johnny Appleseed is known by many school children, although I believe that number is currently declining, and Codell does a great job of reviving his legend. The message is clear. Johnny Appleseed is not just a legend, but a real man who made a difference in the world seed by seed, and deed by deed.
    Included are some fun apple inspired activities to celebrate the anniversary of John “Appleseed” Chapman and an apple pie recipe.
    Recommended for readers age 4-8.

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