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Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants
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Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  254 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Wild West chaos and creative problem solving are the force behind a well-loved American institution. What’s a California miner to do when gold dust sifts right out of his holey pockets? With such a raggedy wardrobe, he may as well be mining in the vanilla (that is, his birthday suit)! Good thing Levi Strauss is out west, ready with his needle and a head full of bright idea ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published September 12th 2011)
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Kathryn
Dang! I don't really know what to say about this book.

As the cover says, this story about Levi Strauss "inventing" blue jeans is basically all fabrication. It's a fun little story, but I couldn't help but feel a little annoyed that the Author's Note at the end pretty much tells us that everything we read about was a tall-tale. And I got a little tired of Levi saying "Dang!" all the time. But, maybe it would make for a fun read-aloud. And it might show little boys that real men know how to sew! ;
...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Author Tony Johnston, who has published more than 100 books for children, spins an old-fashioned tall tale based on the story of Levi Strauss and his "invention" of blue jeans in this new picture book. Filled with colorful Western-style language and illustrated with great humor by Stacy Innerst, this book would make a terrific addition to a gold rush unit at school or a discussion of tall tales.

The story begins with a hilarious close-up of a bearded miner with quite a few missing teeth yelling
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Jay Bushara
Raise your hand if you knew the first responders to California's Nineteenth Century gold rush used to go panning in the nude. That this this was owing to their pants abruptly disintegrating - curduroy, wool, tweed, flannel, burlap, velvet, worsted serge - may strike you as a historical mercy if you've ever worn worsted serge, but the indignities did not end there, as men began dressing in barrels which "got pretty hot when the sun sizzled, pretty cold when it snowed." "Dang!" said Levi Strauss, ...more
Barbara
This hilarious tall tale about how blue jeans became a staple in the American West during the Gold Rush is sure to appeal to young readers who will be impressed at the quick thinking of Levi Strauss who ended up using tent fabric for pants that would stand up to hard use. An author's note makes it clear that much of the story being told here is an exaggeration, but it's still great fun, and a wonderful example of voice. The acrylic illustrations painted on blue jeans are pretty cool too and add ...more
Lauren
This is a fun book with its illustrations done on blue jeans and its "dang" colloquialisms from the Wild West. It's important to note, though, that it's "fairly fabricated!" While it's a darn-tootin' laugh of a tale about Levi Strauss and the invention of blue jeans, it ain't a true one. Now pair it with some real information and it would lighten things up! But the real information might be a real disappointment since Levi was more of a marketer than an inventor or tailor.
Dolly
Sep 07, 2013 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a humous tall tale about the Gold Rush and how Levi Strauss became part of the fabric (ha, pun!) of American history. The blend of fact and fiction is interesting and I like that some of the more egregious changes to the actual story are mentioned at the end The narrative is fun to read aloud and the acrylic paint on denim for the illustrations is so unique. We really enjoyed reading this book together.
Sherry
"Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants" has a wonderously inventive lyrical quality: the whimsy of a tall tale with the tongue-in-cheek humor of spin-sters like Jon Scieska in "The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales". Exclamations like "Dang" stand in for "Eureka" as Levi imagines each merchandising opportunity, like a light-bulb going off in his head. Then he's on to making dreams and making history.

Stacy Innerst's fun illustrations painted
...more
Joan
This was loads of fun to read! This is written in the style of tall tales, with that sort of feel and exaggeration. The illustrator came up with the brilliant idea of drawing the pictures on top of old jeans....I assume levi jeans but won't swear to that part! If I were doing it with a group of kids, I'd cue them to say (or holler) the "Dangs!" that appear periodically through the story. It certainly would be way too hard for anyone much lower than 3rd or 4th grade to manage to read by themselve ...more
Gwen the Librarian
This book has some of the best language, and the best opening page, maybe ever. Set during the California gold rush, it tells the story of Levi Strauss, who invented jeans. The illustrations are all painted on denim, with seams running through. It's super fun and creative. My beef, though, is with how very fabricated and folkloric the story becomes. The author note is a bit heartbreaking because, while Levi Strauss's own true story doesn't have many facts recorded, one would like a kid to rememb ...more
Jasmin Garcia
Levi Strauss Get's a Bright Idea is a great fiction story about the gold rush that took place in 1848. Levi Strauss traveled to California and arrived a wee bit late to enjoy the rush. So instead of digging for gold, he finds himself making pants for the unlucky few who were tormented with not having any pants to wear.
Though the entire story is completely fabricated, it' a great example of fiction stories derived from facts. At the end of the story, Johnston unveils the factual truth about Levi
...more
Carolyn
This is a pretty charming picture book on how Levi jeans came to be. The art is fun and goofy and there are lots of jeans details (stitching, etc.) built into the background of the pages. But all that aside, there is a weird sense of commercialism about it. Is Levi's earning royalties off this? :)

Reading level: I'd peg it at around 3rd grade reading level.

School use?: Although in some ways I don't think it's school worthy, on the other hand, if you were to have a unit on the settling of the Amer
...more
Kristine
Humorous account of the legend behind the invention of Levi's.

Mentor Text for: Word Choice and Voice
Laura
How did blue jeans get invented? We all know that Strauss designed pants from canvas for miners during the California gold rush. This 'fairly fabricated' story tells about how Strauss traveled to California and came up with his brilliant idea.

My students liked Levi Strauss' repetitive use of the word 'dang!' and enjoyed the illustrations. The author's note includes information about Strauss and the California Gold Rush. I wish that the story was a bit more factual and included a bibliography or
...more
Linda
A clever and funny tall tale based on the "inventor" of Levis (bluejeans.) I really wanted to love this book, but I'm not sure of such an exorbitant story. Tall tales are fictitious through and through, but this one is based on fact. Levi Strauss IS (or was) a real person. I think I'd prefer a story that isn't quite so farfetched. Yet, this is a fun and funny read and would likely be a fun book to read aloud. He says "dang" a lot, and, considering his Bavarian background, a Germanic exclamation ...more
Luanne Hatcher
Told as a tall tale, this story is about how the Gold Rush miners had a problem with their pants being too flimsy to withstand gold searching. They tried long johns, barrels, and even went in the buff. Levi Strauss arrived on the scene, too late to mine for gold. Seeing the miners pantless, gave him an idea to create sturdy pants that would protect the miners and not disintegrate. Using his tent, he made the first pair of Levi jeans and put them to a test. An author's note tells the reader the h ...more
PWRL
Jun 10, 2015 PWRL marked it as to-read
Shelves: zzz2015-jun-new
SM
Rebecca Ann
This was a really interesting adaptation of the history of Levi Strauss. I think young boys will get a kick out of the jokes and language the author uses, and all of the exaggerated facts. I do think the truth-stretching Johnston employs could be confusing and/or annoying if you don't preface the book with an explanation that it didn't really happen this way. I did really like that Levi "just wanted to sew". I think it shows that it's ok for boys to like sewing and making things as well as girls ...more
Joella www.cinjoella.com
Who invented jeans? Who was the first person to wear them? Why did they become so popular? This fun picture book explains the answers to these questions...in an almost biographical way. I really like how pictures of blue jeans make up various textures throughout the book. In fact, the illustrations were actually painted on blue jeans. So much fun to look at history when it is presented in this type of way. It makes me want to try to paint pictures on old jeans myself. Art project!
Jennifer
First, the illustrations are superb. Using denim as a canvas, Innerst does a great job of bringing together the fabric and the story. Beautifully done.

The story is also cute, though there are a lot of big words that smaller ones might not get. Still, some of the phrases used really capture the story and the history (gnashing their clashers; tinkered with tree bark). I could almost hear the western accents in the writing - DANG!
Melissa
The illustrations are wonderful, and there is the author's note with the facts, but after a first reading I'm still not sure how I feel about tall-talifying a true story, no matter that the tall tale has as much a good ol American pedigree as Levi's do. And even if it DOES say "A Fairly Fabricated Story" on the cover.

I think it's interesting that this came out with The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn.

Kelly
My mom got this book from the library because I just had a baby named Levi. I read ut allowed to her while my 3 year old was running around and not paying attention. We thought it was really funny but I was glad my daughter wasn't paying attention because it said "dang" on every other page which I don't think is an appropriate word for little kids, which is kind of weird since it is a picture book.
Kate
This is Western done right - without the hokey crap, but with lots of appropriate "Dang!"s. This has the winking cleverness and subtle sense of humor of an old tall tale put to use in telling the story of Levi Strauss' invention of blue jeans in Gold Rush era California. Using this for clothing storytime (paperweaving craft). Neat feature: illustrations are acrylic on blue jeans!
Melanie
Based on the true tale of Levi Strauss this picture book spreads the truth pretty thin, as the author himself admits. However what exists is a hilarious tale of gold miners' need for pants of some sort that would last longer than the burlap, tweed, cotton and other fabrics that just didn't hold together. Strauss filled that need and gave the author enough fodder for one hilarious tale!
Tricia
A tall tale that children can relate to (since most wear Levis or another type of jean), this book was a fun walk through embellished history. I was appreciative for the factual section at the end of the story--and learned something--I had thought that Levi created jeans, not just sold them. Interesting overall, but got a tad tired of the "dang!". Perhaps I'm the only one...
Robin
The artwork and story are cute but, really -- what is the point of a totally made-up story of the origin of Levi's dungarees? The last page has the true story in tiny print that no kid will ever read and, it basically says that everything in the main body of the text is false. I just don't see that this adds anything to the corpus of kids' literature or history. Meh.
Claire
I put this on the 4tyh grade shelf because of hte gold rush link- I think this is a great 'upper' grade read aloud.
Sort of a rolicking tall tale of the perils of panning for gold in lightweight pants- apparently the cloth is Not Up To The Task and miners were, Yessir, mining in the vanilla.
It took levi a while but darned if he didn't find a solution!
Melissa
I was hoping this book would make a good book report title, but it is more of a tall tale. Funny, though wordy, it makes a great read for grades 3-5 when learning about tall tales. Since you can clearly show how certain ideas are exaggerated within the book, it can help children get a more concrete idea of what a tall tale is.
Kristine Pratt
OK, the story isn't quite true, but it's funny and interesting and gets kids asking just how their favorite blue jeans came about. Which thanks to the note in the back we can answer (somewhat). So this book gets a positive review and recommendation as it catches at the imagination, which is what a good book needs to do most.
Holly
Dang, this is a funny biography of Levi Strauss! This mostly legend rendition of how Levi Strauss invented jeans is entertaining and will surely make kids laugh. Strauss was a German salesman who knew a market when he saw one during the Gold Rush in the 1840s and 50s. I love that the illustrations were painted on old jeans!!
Carey Hanson
copyright 2011 told in tall tale fashion/radical change

This is the story of how Levi Strauss invented blue jeans when he went to California during the gold rush. It is a neat story and one I'd love to use as a read-aloud. The best part of the book, though, is that all the illustrations are painted on actual blue jeans.
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Tony Johnston has written many acclaimed books for young people. She and her husband lived in Mexico for fifteen years, where they raised their children. She now lives in San Marino, California.
More about Tony Johnston...
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