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John Henry by Julius Lester

John Henry (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Julius Lester, Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6896713,825 (4.17)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)



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Summary: John Henry by Julius Lester was a a story about a special young man. When he was born all the birds and animals from a around come to see this handsome young fella. Even the sun and the moon wanted to see him. Not a infant very long he grew so big he broke through the front porch. John Henry set off on a journey and along the way he ran into several people he made bets with and also just to help. The last person he encountered he made a bet that he could do a much better and faster job than a machine could do digging a tunnel through a mountain. He wins but soon after winning and and being applauded for his hard work he died. The people took him to D.C and buried him in the yard of the white house.

Personal Reaction: This book was very interesting no wonder it has a Caldecott Honor. I loved the use of metaphors. The objects such as the sun and moon he gave life to was fun and kept my interest. It was a happy book but had its sad moment but did not seem to keep you in a sad mood because of the person he was. He lived on in the thoughts and memories of others in the story. I enjoyed how he made an impact on the lives of people he encountered.

Extension Ideas: Draw pictures of their own imaginary folk hero. Explore the meaning of strength and courage.
  Dr3a | Jan 31, 2016 |
Rumored to be stronger than ten men and faster than a drill that cuts through a mountain, making way for a railroad, John Henry pits his super human strength against a drill to discern which is faster.

A folk tale to be appreciated, the images are crisp and lovely.
  Whisper1 | Sep 19, 2015 |
Although this version of the John Henry legend is a little bit different than some I’ve read, I enjoyed the book. For starters, the illustrations are wonderfully done in watercolor and bring the story to life. The story itself is fun and would appeal to little boys everywhere. When you hear about a man that is, “stronger than ten men, and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill,” the image is unforgettable. I also loved the way Julius Lester makes us feel like we’re hearing the story from someone we know, since his “great-granddaddy’s brother’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s uncle’s aunt” witnessed one of the events! ( )
  flackm | Jul 14, 2015 |
Unstoppable from birth, John Henry is pitted against a machine in a competition of strength.
  troberts719 | Jul 4, 2015 |
John Henry is a folk tale about a man larger and stronger than life. His strength is known far and wide and so is he. The legend tells that he died by successfully cutting through a mountain faster than a steam drill machine. Interesting folklore for children. ( )
  dorthys | Mar 15, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julius Lesterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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