Kid Lit Review of “Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman” by Esmé Raji Codell

I have great respect for the award-winning author and educator Esmé Raji Codell (I especially loved her book Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year) so I had high expectations for Seed by Seed. Fortunately I was not disappointed!

Codell went to great lengths to find out and specify which parts of the Johnny Appleseed story are legend; fact; or “stories we’re not sure are true.”

What we do know, Codell writes, is:

“…that by doing the same small act of planting seeds every day, Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of our nation. Seed by seed, deed by deed.”

She organizes his story around five precepts taken from the way Chapman lived:

Use what you have
Share what you have
Respect nature
Try to make peace when there is war
You can reach your destination by taking small steps

For each precept, she includes illustrative episodes from John Chapman’s life.

At the end of the book, Codell suggests that readers make a “Johnny Appleseed pledge”:

“Similar to a New Year’s resolution, this is a promise to do one small deed every day that can change our country for the better.”

She also provides a recipe for apple pie, and the lyrics to “the Johnny Appleseed song,” based on a traditional hymn by Emanuel Swedenborg, the theologian who influenced Chapman:

“Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun and the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me! Amen!

[Codell adds that “you can replace ‘Lord’ with ‘World’ or ‘Earth,’ to taste.]

Evaluation: Not only is the story consistently interesting, but the messages for kids are great. I love the way too that Codell is teaching kids to interrogate myths and to use care when interpreting stories. The excellent illustrations by Lynne Rae Perkins reflect her efforts to make the pictures as accurate as possible without sacrificing aesthetic appeal. Highly recommended for all ages!

Rating: 4.5/5

Published by Greenwillow Books, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2012


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9 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman” by Esmé Raji Codell

  1. Beth F says:

    Johnny Appleseed is such an interesting guy. Did you know that he was included in Morgan’s LIONS OF THE WEST? I’m going to have to get this for Mr. BFR, who has read quite a bit about Chapman and would appreciate this version too.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    That book looks gorgeous! I remember singing that song as a kid!

  3. bookingmama says:

    What a lovely book! My mom used to read a Johnny Appleseed book to me when I was a kid.

  4. Stephanie says:

    This looks like a gorgeous picture book. Thanks for the terrific review.

  5. diane says:

    What a gorgeous book Jill. I plan on joining this Kid’s Connection meme for 2013. Happy New Year

  6. Rita K says:

    I once wrote a poem about Johnny Appleseed. Probably got it all wrong. I still remember pert of it though as he impressed me so.

  7. Vasilly says:

    I’ve been waiting for my library to get this book for ages now! Luckily, I’m the first person on the holds list. This book looks so so good. I can’t wait to read it and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The Johnny Appleseed pledge is something I can do. 😉 Happy New Year.

  8. Jenners says:

    This sounds great … a wonderful teachable book and the whole Johnny Appleseed story besides.

  9. I want to read it just for the illustrations the look of this one!

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