Julius Lester: John Henry



With regard to Julius Lester s 1994 John Henry it is in particular illustrator Jerry Pinkney s 1995 Caldecott Honour winning accompanying illustrations which I have always found and ever since first reading the book as a library copy a couple of years ago very much personally and visually impressive expressive For although Pinkney s pictorial renderings are at times perhaps almost a trifle too overly busy for my eyes and attention span and sometimes do seem to obtain even some modern anachronisms their minute details are indeed both lushly rendered and also very much and successfully mirror Julius Lester s printed words his retelling of the John Henry Tall Tale tradition a richly nuanced narrative chock full of delightfully evocative metaphors similes literary allusions and as such Julius Lester s text is most definitely very much as verbally dense and as full as Jerry Pinkney s pictorial renderings and vice versa a truly and in many ways lovely and stunning marriage of text and images However as much as I have appreciated Julius Lester s retelling and as much as I have indeed even much loved his included author s note on American Tall Tales as well as of course the presented information on the genesis of the John Henry tradition in particular I also cannot say that I have found Lester s John Henry all that much to my personal and folkloric liking to my tastes For I just do not and cannot see Julius Lester s John Henry as being all that much of a potentially positive role model as the sense of him actually doing something worthwhile and for the good of everyone is kind of majorly missing and lost at least in that last and ltimately fatal to and for him contest For sorry but John Henry s last bet it sure seems to and for me to be just a wager for a its own sake man against machine and basically a rather majorly and sadly silly reason to kill oneself for in my opinion and something that in other renditions of John Henry is actually not ever as prominently featured as being simply a contest for the sake of winning as while there is still that battle between man and machine with John Henry winning but at the cost of his life nlike in Julius Lester s John Henry with other versions of the tale I have read there is also a distinct reason shown as to why John Henry would even decide on the contest namely because the machine against which he decides to measure himself will be putting a lot of his railroading friends and acuaintances permanently out of work but with Julius Lester that particular and in my opinion very much important aspect of John Henry s desire to enter into said and his last contest never really comes through all that well all that much and you are left or at least I am left with a rather ncomfortable feeling that John Henry basically just sacrifices himself for nothing than a supremely silly wager and contest against a machine that he really ends p dying in vain What a wonderful book Enjoyed by all my children young and older a tall tale about John Henry We learned about Tall Tales in Traditional Literature and in the. With his two sledgehammers pulverizing boulders John Henry races a steam drill tunneling through a mountain It's a deadly.

Story of John Henry in History class so this was a great addition to those lessons My kids loved it The pictures were big and detailed and of course the preschoolers loved the trains A little on the long side at least a level 4 reading level But the writing Oh the writing Just beautiful Next to the mountain he didn t look much bigger than a wish that wasn t going t i looooooooove the detail in this story i dont want to spoil it but its just great I love this story I listened to the audio version Samuel l Jackson narrated it it was fabulous from now on when I have a difficult task to perform I m gonna say oh john henry give me strength to do this This is a very nice version of the John Henry story I don t remember ever hearing about Ferret Faced Freddy and the bet that John Henry made with him which then turned him into Frederick the Friendly This also tells the story of John Henry clearing a boulder that dynamite couldn t break and racing a steam drill to create a tunnel through a mountain One disadvantage of such a comprehensive story though is that it is too long for me to read aloud as part of a library lessonI loved the colorful way the story was written with lots of comparisons sing nature For example he was so fast the wind was out of breath trying to keep Scary Stories 3 up with him Or His voice sounded like bat wings on tombstones speaking of Ferret Faced FreddyThe illustrations fit very well with the story but for some reason they just aren t my favorite I can see that they are very well done and I m not disputing that they merit a Caldecott honor They just aren t my favorite Not sure why I really liked Jerry Pinkney s illustrations in Noah s ArkThe library book that I read came as part of a kit with an audio cassette narrated by Samuel L Jackson The audio was great Samuel L Jackson does a wonderful job with the narration and I really enjoyed the background music and sound effects that went with it The audio really added to my experience with the book The United States has some wonderful folk heroes who are fading from memory Julius Lester revives the story of African American John Henry with anpdated retellingJohn Henry is a mythical American perhaps loosely based on a real person children should learn about so I m pleased to see a few of his stories being retold in this volume his birth and prodigious growth building a road and hammering through a mountain I was less enthused with the odd insertion of modern touches a swimming pool and Jacuzzi added to the house into a story dating to the late 1800s Still it s an enjoyable read with fun metaphors and similes interesting stories a likable character and attractive artwork Note John Henry is an admirable hero and children may be distressed when he dies Use your judgment with sensitive children However the book handles it well and it could be a teaching moment with meaningful discussion with the right children This is the story of John Henry I m sure most people know this one Julius and Jerry got together to make this their version of the famous folktale I like the tone of the book it. Contest of man vs machine written with such power that this African American folk hero becomes as awesome as a force of.

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S bright and happy and larger than life I even like so many of his word choices The mountain was as hard as anger There were wonderful phrases like that I don t know why but I don t really care for this version of the tale It s not bad simply not for me There are several other tellings that I feel are much betterThe kids enjoyed this The nephew thought it was cool how he could sing and Author Julius Lester and illustrator Jerry Pinkney join forces in this lovely picture book retelling of the tall tale of John Henry the legendary African American steel driver whose contest with a steam powered drilling machine has been immortalized in American folk music Extraordinary from the moment he was born John Henry amazed the woodland animals his parents and the sun and moon themselves Eventually setting out to make his way in the world he performed marvelous feats before eventually coming to the mountain in West Virginia where the railroad needed to get through It was here he triumphed in his race with the machine only to die in the endI have always thought of the story of legendary hero John Henry as being a meditation on humanity and the human spirit on our strength and weakness our ability to perform extraordinary deeds and The Penguin Atlas of Endangered Species ultimately our mortality Set in a time of increasing mechanization the story bothpholds the idea of the human being as superior to the machine and The Bartender undermines it by highlighting that our great deeds must come at a price and cannot be sustained forever Lester s poetic and poignant retelling in this picture book captures that feeling for me while Pinkney s gorgeous watercolor illustrations ably bring out the beauty and power of the central figure s story The artwork here was definitely worthy of the Caldecott Honor it received I ve long been aware of this retelling and am glad to have finally picked itp and read it I will have to seek out the one from Ezra Jack Keats and see how it compares Recommended to all young tall tale lovers as wel An interesting introduction to the legend of John Henry although for whatever reason I had the song Big John stuck in my head before reading this which isn t the same John John Henry is one of those little known folk heroes and I wish there was on him than there tends to be Unfortunately this tends to be one of those books that is distracting from the actual story or making of a mess for those who are sincerely interested And one of the reasons I gave such a low score to the book is the attempted modernization of some of the events The illustrations are a bit dark colored and jammed so don t often contribute much to the story in my opinion although the few colors do pop out for the reader At the same time the illustration Tono Bungay used the concept of anicorn along with the author s tale to showcase the important birth as a nicorn or white elephant normally appears in mythoi for many other notable origins and events The writing is easy to follow and has some beautiful descriptions in it which I enjoyed But overall I just feel the book was lacking this book is good but it isn t my favorite. Nature yet as familiar as an older brother Pinkney's stunning art shows John Henry's energy bursting from nature Full col.

Julius Lester was an American writer of books for children and adults He was an academic who taught for 32 years 1971–2003 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst He was also a photographer as well as a musician who recorded two albums of folk music and original songs