Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Vote (for the most inspiring picture book of 2012)

On the eve of Election Day, I've been considering what might be the most inspiring picture book of 2012.  My vote?  Seed by Seed, The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman.

Reading through this book is like walking through a living history museum!  In the opening pages, author Esmé Raji Codell asks, "When we look out our windows, what do we see?"  She then begins to describe how things used to look, as Lynn Rae Perkins' soothing pictures take us through a "tree-bough-tangled world" of the past...  

Illustrator Lynn Rae Perkins immersed herself in the life and times of Johnny Appleseed for her research: visiting museums, hiking, and even spending hours stitching a beautiful sampler that appears in the book.

Lynn Rae Perkins: Esmé writes about the “five footsteps” Johnny left for us to walk in, ideas that we can emulate in our own lives. I decided to try to embody those ideas in physical objects. I thought it would make it easier for kids to remember them. Also, I like, really really like, making stuff. This meant more research, because I wanted the objects to represent the idea, but also to be of Johnny’s time and place. I wanted them to be things that would have words on them: maps, books, embroidery, painted signs. But what did those things look like back then? Which things were present in ordinary people’s lives?

1. Use what you have.
2. Share what you have.
3. Respect Nature.
4. Try to make peace where there is war.
5. You can reach your destination by taking small steps.

Here at Good Books For Young Souls, I've done a couple of posts on Johnny Appleseed, and this particular book is very unique.  Author Esmé Raji Codell is, I think, the biggest John Chapman fan/enthusiast I've ever come across! Why did she write this book, when there are so many others out there?  On her blog, she explains:
...what I was really looking for was a book that not only walked through the narrative of John Chapman’s storied life, but one that would make the legend of Johnny Appleseed relevant to the modern, urban readers in the Chicago Public Schools, the children with whom I was reading. The question wasn't "who was Johnny Appleseed?" The question was, "Why should we care who he was?" I wanted a book that made readers love Johnny Appleseed, be inspired by him and want to emulate his example, even over the distance of history. I had that experience, and I wanted to share it. So the first thing I did in approaching SEED BY SEED was think, what is it about John Chapman that transcends time? What about him touches me in both a secular way and a spiritual way, and how can that been written about so it will touch someone else?

One of my favorite stories that Esmé relates about Johnny?  
It is said that John Chapman used his open shirt pocket as a pouch to carry his books.  It is also said that he ripped books into chapters in order to circulate them between settlers.  He liked to gather children and their families around him and delight them with a story time...In this way, he was the frontier's first librarian!

I'm sure we can all take a lesson from Johnny Appleseed, a man who lived by example, was kind and pious, and had respect for all living things:
Seed by seed, deed by deed,
Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of a nation.
And now it's your turn.
One small deed, every day.

Tomorrow, go do your good deed for the day and exercise your freedom to vote!  And if you treat yourself to this book, you'll find a recipe for Johnny's favorite dessert on the last page!  Apple Pie and voting - it doesn't get much more American than that!


  1. Wow, these are just beautiful! I love beautifully illustrated books. I've been known to sneak a book off my daughter's book shelf to look at myself ;)

    1. I don't even have kids at home anymore, and I can't tell you how excited I get when a new "friend" arrives on my doorstep via UPS (this one arrived a couple of weeks ago) - I'm a sucker for beautiful illustrated books! At least I have a new grandson to buy books for now - well that's what I tell people. ;)

  2. Lovely. I'll have to seek this one out!!

    1. You won't be disappointed - and you'll gain a good recipe for apple pie!

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post! I am so honored and gratified that you found the book inspirational (and enjoyed that yummy apple pie), and appreciate all that *you* share and inspire. All best, and again, thank you!

    1. I'm so happy (and honored) you stopped by my blog, Esme! Your book was highlighted back in September in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review, and I immediately went out and found it. Such a special book - a treasure for generations to come. Thank YOU! :)