Oct 14, 2012

Apple Season!

At this time of year distinctive aromas, textures, sounds, and images fill our lives, indoors and out. It's the time of year for pumpkin pies, harvest soups, sweet potatoes, and.... apples?
Carmel apples, maybe.
Bobbing for apples, perhaps.
Otherwise, apples are pretty darn mundane, readily available on store shelves year around, right?
But not because of imports from distant climates, as is true for more fragile fruits. Apples have played a role in everyday diets for centuries because they "keep" so well, throughout an entire year of seasonal climate changes. Even before our modern era of refrigeration and transport, apples could be "harvested" and "kept" all year long,  as cider, applesauce, dried, or just packed in straw in a root cellar. These days they also come in many varieties, new hybrids as well as heritage flavors, each with individual combinations of color, size, texture, and taste.

Greenwillow Books, 2012
In the recent release, SEED BY SEED: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman, by Esme Raji Codell, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins, the story of one man's impact on a continent and its residents is depicted with detail and grace. It is also told with impressive thoroughness, inviting readers to move back in time from the windowscape of skyscrapers and  traffic lights to a horizon filled with the tangle of roots, branches, and wide tree trunks. The evocative opening pages move forward to unveil the life of a farmer- a seemingly a unimportant character in history- who changed the future by his example.

John Chapman's life was focused on principles that stand the test of time:
Use what you have.
Share what you have.
Respect nature.
Try to make peace where there is war.
Reach your destination by taking small steps.

Johnny Appleseed was an eccentric, gentle man, dedicated to his principles even when that meant he might be ridiculed or live in lowly accommodations, like sharing a hollow log with a bear and her cub.  The text, illustrations, and back matter in this new title together revealed more than other versions I've read about John Chapman. I grew up in Ohio where Johnny's legacy thrived, watched the Dennis Day/Disney version of Johnny Appleseed more times than I can count, but this biography moved me. The final double spread returns us to a current time and place, ending with a compelling question:    "What seed will you plant?"
Washington Post review can be found here.

On a side note, this provides yet another view of a life that is "different" but deserves our respect, an especially suitable addition to discussion during anti-bullying awareness month, or at any time of year.

Aladdin, 2008

 A related title, perhaps with the longest subtitle ever, is APPLES TO OREGON: Being the (Slightly) True Story of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, Cherries, (and Children) Across the Plains, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.
This book launches the reader right into the past, telling a story that is largely tall tale, but based on a pioneer in 1847, his wife and eight children, and the wagon they towed west to Oregon, filled to the frame with soil and seedlings.
In the midst of this rambunctious and entertaining "Apples, Ho" adventure, an abundance of information about the landscape, chores, laughter, and challenges of a wagon train trip can be harvested from text and illustrations. Filled but not overloaded with figurative language, dialect and dialogue, humor and exaggeration, this book not only appeals, it challenges readers and serves well as mentor text for colorful and distinctive writing. If you've ever attempted to grow anything, especially from seed, you'll appreciate the real-life drama of hauling and watering those seedlings (and siblings) across half a continent. To say they arrive safely doesn't give away the ending (the title gave that away, right?), because this is so much more than a Point A to Point B story.

Both are powerful examples of the ability of picture books, fiction and non-fiction, to extend across ages and continents, time and travails, to touch each of us with surprises and inspiration.
Now go crunch an apple, and then leave a comment about other apple picture book that are "keepers", or even your favorite apple variety!


  1. Thank you so much for this lovely feature! I appreciate the review, and hope your readers enjoy my book. I *love* _Apples to Oregon_, and use it myself in the classroom! Thank you for sharing, and happy appleseed!

    1. Esme, I'm honored to have you stop by and add a comment. Seed By Seed is outstanding, and I know it will become a favorite of kids, families, and teachers.


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