Fruitful American tale re-told
What is it about apples? Without a doubt, there's something wonderfully intriguing about the mythical, natural fruit. Sweet and crunchy satisfying two of the basic requirements for enjoyable eating they're always available and easy to carry. So, when kids, being the curious creatures they are, ask "where do apples come from?" be sure to tell them the tale of Johnny Appleseed.
Along with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and sundry others, Johnny Appleseed is one of the first American folk heroes kids learn about in school. The yarn about the man who walked the land in the years following the Revolutionary War, planting seeds and zealously extolling the merits of the fruit, is refreshingly retold in Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend. Will Moses, great-grandson of one of America's most revered artists, Anna Mary Robertson (better known as Grandma Moses), combines a folksy narrative of this eccentric character with his own homespun illustrations.
For those of you who may have forgotten, Mr. Appleseed, born in 1774, was really named John Chapman. He grew up in a large family, and once he was old enough to strike out on his own set out to seek his fortune. During his travels he discovered the perfect food, which was "good for just about everything . . . you could make dried apples, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, apple cider, apple brandy, applejack, apple vinegar and best of all, apples just tasted so good."Like a missionary, Chapman spread the word about apples, preaching the virtues of the fruit and bestowing gifts of small trees or seeds wherever he went, virtually covering the countryside with apples. It's probably thanks to him that "American as apple pie" is used so often in speaking of patriotic fervor.
Moses' depictions of colonial life are a treat for all readers. His landscapes will remind many of his great-grandmother's quaint, rustic style. Best of all, parents will enjoy reading Johnny Appleseed to their kids and recalling when they first heard the story of this celebrated American folk hero.
Ron Kaplan writes from Montclair, New Jersey.