Cover of Johnny Appleseed by Jane Yolen

Johnny Appleseed

The Legend and the Truth
Illustrated by Jim Burke
HarperCollins 2008
ISBN# 9780060591359 (hardcover)
ISBN# 9780060591366 (library edition)

Jim Burke and I wanted to do a new book together and we had a bunch of ideas, including Grizzly Adams, the Statue of Liberty, Honus Wagner, and a bunch of others. But the editor at Harper I worked with, Maria Modugno, came up with Johnny Appleseed. As he was a local boy (lived some time in Longmeadow, Massachusetts) and Jim had been collecting stuff about him for several years, it seemed a match made in picture book heaven. We said yes and plowed ahead.

It was a difficult time as I began work on the book. My husband was just out of radiation and into a 3 ½ year remission. My agent of 35 years was dying of her own cancer. So plunging into a new book that held oddities, joy, and Jim Burke’s illustration helped me keep life and death in perspective.

In 2008, composer Jerry Noble put the book to music with a children’s chorus and a small musical group and premiered it at the First Congregational Church in Longmeadow for a huge audience. Jim Burke and his wife and small daughter drove down from New Hampshire for it. It was a lovely time.

What reviewers have said:

  • “The reader, cradled in the boughs of such careful craftsmanship, is left with a story as sweet and nutritious as the fruit Johnny Appleseed sowed.”—Booklist
  • “I absolutely fell in love with this book!! It would be a terrific addition to any library!”—Literate
  • “Yolen does a wonderful job of telling the true story of Johnny Appleseed, or John Chapman…”—Carol’s
  • “Jim Burke’s paintings that accompany the text are gorgeous and richly colored, adding visual interest and personality to the story…I wonder if there is nothing that Jane Yolen can’t do.”—
  • “Jane Yolen’s book, Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, captures both the important aspects of the stories of Johnny Appleseed and the man behind the legend. There are many books about Johnny Appleseed, however Yolen’s book is unlike any other. Through the combination of both her text and Jim Burke’s painted illustrations this book combines both the fact and fiction behind the life of Johnny Appleseed. On each page, Yolen presents two sides of Johnny Appleseed, a poem, and also the history of his life, told as a story. She also adds a fact at the bottom of the page to extend learning even farther, often including the source of the information.”—Open Wide Look