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John Henry by Julius Lester

John Henry (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Julius Lester, Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7607512,204 (4.16)5
Title:John Henry
Authors:Julius Lester
Other authors:Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)
Info:Dial (1994), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 40 pages
Collections:Folklore, Your library
Tags:African Americans, folktales, perseverance, living life to the fullest

Work details

John Henry (Picture Puffins) by Julius Lester (1994)

Recently added bySCCCBL, private library, Khegge15, obrienl3, meganrobertson15, RaymondJG46, katie, BookHavenAZ, Revekka



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Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
This book is about John Henry, a super-strong man who drills through mountains faster than machines. This book is a good example of a folktale because it deals with humanity and how death doesn't matter--what matters is what you do with your life while you're still alive.
  Khegge15 | Feb 12, 2017 |
This is a great book. I love all the illustrations and story line. ( )
  KJoPlante | Sep 21, 2016 |
Beautifully written and illustrated, this book brings the legend of John Henry alive.
  tbeard76 | Jul 1, 2016 |

John Henry is about a baby that is born and grows so big during the first day that he shoots through the roof. The next day, he helps his dad fix the porch. After that, he goes to town and challenges the meanest person to a race. If he wins, the man has to be nice for a whole year. If he loses, John Henry will have to work for him an entire year. Of course John Henry wins and the town loves him for it.
Later on, people come across a big boulder that they cannot move in order to clear a road. John Henry says he can take care of it, but they do not believe him. They decide to try to blow it up with dynamite first. They dynamite does nothing. John Henry offers his services again and they allow him to try.

He climbs to the top of the boulder and starts hammering away at it. He swings his ax so fast that a rainbow is created for all of the town's people to see. While he hammers away, he sings a song.

Eventually, he finishes not only getting the boulder out of the way, but he also finishes the road. Everyone is amazed. The work was exhausting and his heart gives out. The town's people put him on a train and everyone hoots and hollers as he goes by.

I did not care for the author's choice of writing style. I liked the repetition of words, but that was about it. The narrator's voice was overdone. The author tried too hard to fit in the dialect they chose, which made for a confusing read. Word order seemed odd and made it to where I had to reconstruct sentences as I read.

Though I did not enjoy the story, I loved the illustrations. It appears that the illustrator used water colors, but I am not sure. The colors are vibrant and alive. They really put me into the setting, whereas the writing did not. I especially loved the pages with the rainbows. The illustrations were very unique, and I have never seen this process used before. This book would have been a nice wordless picture book, because the story was not cutting it.
( )
  ZetherBooks | Jun 15, 2016 |
I would use this as a read aloud during a unit on tall tales. I would use it for any grade above second. I think it's age/maturity appropriate for grades 2-5 depending on how you use it. For 2nd grade I would use it as a read aloud. I would have the students come up with character traits of John Henry based off the story. I would also use to model hyperbole because there is a lot embedded in the story. For older grade, I would have students do a character comparison between John Henry and another tall tale character, like Paul Bunyan. I would also have students do a compare and contrast between different versions of John Henry. ( )
  ewhite06 | Apr 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julius Lesterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pinkney, Jerrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
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In memory of my father, James H., my John Henry. – J.P.
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This tale attempts to be faithful to the indomitable human spirit John Henry embodies.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140566228, Paperback)

John Henry is stronger than ten men, and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill. Julius Lester's folksy retelling of a popular African-American folk ballad has warmth, tall tale humor, and boundless energy. Jerry Pinkney illustrates the story with "rich colors borrowed from the rocks and the earth, so beautiful that they summon their own share of smiles and tears" (Booklist).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Retells the life of the legendary African American hero who raced against a steam drill to cut through a mountain.

(summary from another edition)

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