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John Henry

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  2,980 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
John Henry is stronger than ten men, and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill. Julius Lester's folksy retelling of a popular African-American folk ballad has warmth, tall tale humor, and boundless energy. Jerry Pinkney illustrates the story with "rich colors borrowed from the rocks and the earth, so beautiful that they summon their own share of smiles and t ...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published October 1st 1994 by Dial Books (first published 1994)
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Dec 14, 2015 Latasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!"
Nov 19, 2013 midnightfaerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
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 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 m
Feb 01, 2011 Luann rated it liked it
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 lesson.

I loved the colorf
Rachael LaRochelle
John Henry by Julius Lester
John Henry is an African folklore about a man named John Henry. John Henry was born on the porch of his mother's house and shortly after he was born he grew so tall and so strong,he grew straight through the roof of the house. All his neighbors love John Henry .When John Henry grew up and decided it was time for him to move on his father gave him two hammers that we're handed down to him by his father. John Henry took his 2 hammers and went on his way. He soon ran some
Dec 26, 2016 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
We found a video treat at our library: we just watched Scholastic Video Collection: The Scrambled States of America and More Stories to Celebrate Our Country DVD, which features animated adaptations of children's storybooks with celebrity narrators.

This story was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson with music by Crystal Taliefero and we just loved the format.

It reminded us of the Tumblebooks animations that we occasionally watch online. As the book is narrated, we followed along with a slightly anim
Aug 12, 2009 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful retelling of an adventurous story of one of America’s legendary heroes. When John Henry was born, animals from all around came to see the child. He grew at an astonishing rate, and had a new wing and a swimming pool added to his parent’s house in the blink of an eye. He was always very helpful to his parent’s and those that were in need of help. John Henry decided one day that it was time for him to and make his own way in the work. He found a job building a road, using his g ...more
Assigned 398 as traditional literature by LOC. A Caldecott Honor Book. Retells the story of an African-American folk hero. First illustration is a shooting star - when you turn to the 2 page spread for the title page, you see the shooting star coming to earth. Author’s note has research being done by illustrator and also cites the ballad “John Henry”. The illustrator’s note cites numerous authorities, explains the differences between those sources and this book, and gives the sources for the ult ...more
Julia Brumfield
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 more 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 more of a mess for those who are sincerely interested. And one of the reasons I gave such a low score to the bo
I really liked both the text and the illustrations of this version of John Henry. This retelling seemed to have more rich detail than versions I have read in the past. Figurative language was woven throughout. For example, "This was no ordinary boulder. It was as hard as anger and so big around, it took half a week for a tall man to walk from one side to the other." Or "What he saw was a mountain as big as hurt feelings." I love the inclusion of so many details such as him wrapping the rainbow a ...more
This story is a rehashing of the old folktale of a man by the name of John Henry. John Henry was an extraordinarily large man who grew up extraordinarily fast. As I had never heard of this folktale before reading this story, it entertained me greatly.
John Henry does many amazing things throughout the story, which includes outrunning a horse and breaking through a boulder that even dynamite could not even break through. Julius Lester uses great words to describe all the action in the story; this
Nov 02, 2016 SamZ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caldecott
1995 Caldecott Honor - Favorite Illustration: After John Henry removes the boulder and finishes the road, as he is waving goodbye, I love the way the rainbow clings to his shoulders and hammers.
This is a great retelling of the tall tale that is John Henry. I love the illustrations that fit so beautifully with the retelling of the Appalachian steel driver. Also, I really enjoyed the way the story included so many similies, imagery, and metaphors. Phrases like "a mountain as big as hurt feelings"
John Henry is an African-American folk hero. I'm not sure I remember the story. Julius Lester states at the beginning no one know for sure what the real story is. His style of writing is very personal and makes the reader truly understand the feel of the what is going on. And the watercolor paintings are wonderful.
Linda Lipko
Rumored to be stronger than ten men and faster than a drill that cuts through a mountain, making way for a railroad, John Henry pits his super human strength against a drill to discern which is faster.

A folk tale to be appreciated, the images are crisp and lovely.
Nov 11, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful story based on a folk song that I have known and loved for many years. The illustrations are energetic with very expressive people.
Sep 29, 2008 Mrs. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of our favorite tall tale books. It is worth reading. Really strong men would enjoy this book.
Ebony Hargett
This is a good book for a discussion on historical tales/people. The text also expresses words using all capitals. This is good for teaching young writers how to use various forms to express words.
Aug 18, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
read almost every night to Abu, one of his favorites. Kaboom blammity blammity Kaboom bang boom bang!
May 07, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Henry and his hammer. What a great story. Beautifully illustrated. Hopeful, down to earth and full of spirit.
Jennifer Heise
Julius Lester re-writes the story of John Henry from the folk ballad, with illustrations byJerry Pinkney . Softens the sad ending somewhat. Worth every minute to share with children.
Nov 22, 2016 Janice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The man who beat the steam engine. (kind of) So like the other mythical men of the early days, John Henry is larger than life, stronger than most, and more determined.

Good read aloud.
Steve Holden
Jan 13, 2017 Steve Holden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wrapped up our unit with a fun read aloud in the form of the tall tale, John Henry. This is a 1995 Caldecott Award Winner, and it is powerfully written, and beautifully illustrated. There's a fantastic audiobook/companion reader featuring the narration of Samuel L. Jackson. Although a tall tale, the central message and theme was one that my kids picked up on and were able to discuss about as we wrapped up our week.
Jan 10, 2017 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Entertaining retelling of the John Henry tall tale. My favorite part is the take-away quote near the end: "Dying ain't important. Everybody does that. What matters is how well you do your living." Truly inspiring!
PictureBooks Review
Another gorgeous book by Pinkney and written by the great Julius Lester, who took great pains to find a new way of telling this story. He writes in his introduction that he found a great resonance between the characters of John Henry and Martin Luther King, Jr. He's uncertain as to what the connection is, precisely, but doing this book helped him explore the issue.

Lester went through several old stories and songs and lifted ideas and stanzas to fill in the details of John Henry's life. We begin
bookshelves: etec545class3, Hero, Traditional Literature

CSULB 545 Class 3: Hero - John Henry

Lester, Julius. John Henry. Illus. Jerry Pinkney. New York: Puffin, 1994.

[May contain spoilers]

Target Audience: grades 2-4

Curriculum ties: Hero units; Americana units; folktale units; technology units; literary devices (onomatopoeia, personification, alliteration)

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book

John Henry looms large in this award winning picture book; he is both a larger than life figure and man of flesh an
Julian Lehrer
Oct 26, 2016 Julian Lehrer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"John Henry: An American Legend" commences with John Henry, ostensibly the descendant of former slaves, being born with a hammer in his hand. Growing up he did "man's work" with his dad, but decided that he was big and strong enough to go out and work on his own. He worked on farms and cotton fields, and then began working on a riverboat. One night there was a terrible storm and the boat was in deep trouble. A big steel rod that was used to turn the wheel broke off, and no one knew how the ship ...more
Zether Zether

John Henry is about a baby that is born and grows so big during the first day that he shoots through the roof. The next day, he helps his dad fix the porch. After that, he goes to town and challenges the meanest person to a race. If he wins, the man has to be nice for a whole year. If he loses, John Henry will have to work for him an entire year. Of course John Henry wins and the town loves him for it.
Later on, people come across a big boulder that they cannot move in order to clear
Camila Padilla
John Henry by Julius Lester

John Henry, a seemingly normal child, grows and grows until the point where he can easily lift his own cradle as if it were a feather! He grows so tall so fast that he has t leave home to find other challenges for his strength and determination. He becomes a natural phenomenon for being the greatest hammer man in the whole South. John Henry worked in the tracks to the Western region of the United States hammering the roads with lightening speed! During the course of hi
Melanie Soble
1. This book would fall under the category of a picture book, traditional.
2. The author of this book chose a subject of many folk songs as the main character of this tale, John Henry. With the songs as a basis, he creates a folk tale that tells the story of John Henry’s life with many exaggerations and impossibilities that it creates interest.
3. critique
a. The strongest part of this book is the outlandish propositions that the author creates that draws in reader interest.
b. John Henry is su
Stacey Borror
Nov 18, 2012 Stacey Borror rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caldecott Honor – LIBS 642 Bookshelf (Kimmel)
Genre – Traditional

The tale of John Henry is of a man who grew so large and fast that his head went through the porch roof. He soon becomes famous for the speed for which he can swing two sledgehammers and his strength that no one can equal.

A) Word Choice/Personification
B) When writing Lester uses a style to engage the reader that is light and entertaining. He is able to create a character that seems so surreal that you feel a connection to th
Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, Doc Watson, Bruce Springsteen, ... they all sang about John Henry. So why do I not know the ballad that tells of this man? Well, I do now. This book recounts the tale of JH (think of Paul Bunyon) and his incredible strength and work ethic.

Here's a line from the book about his beginning:
When John Henry was born, birds came from everywhere to see him. The bears and panthers and moose and deer and rabbits and squirrels and even a unicorn ...

And then when he dies, we le
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I was born on January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1941-1954 I lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and from 1954-1961 in Nashville, Tennesse. I received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.

In 1961 I moved to New York City where I had a talk radio show on WBAI FM from 1966-1973, hosted a television talk show on WNET from 1969-1971.

Since 1968 I have published 43 books. Among the awards
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