John Henry by Julius Lester
(Caldecott Honor Book)

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Synopsis

Nothing can stop John Henry-no boulder, no mountain, and definitely no steam drill.  Newbery Honor winner Julius Lester writes with such power that this African-American folk hero becomes as awesome as a natural phenomenon.  Jerry Pinkney received a Caldecott Honor for his exuberant, glowing watercolor paintings of the hero.  The book, celebrating its tenth year in print, was also a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, a Parents magazine Best Book, and an ALA Notable Book, among other honors.
 

About Julius Lester

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Writer, professor, and photographer Julius Lester was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 27, 1939. He received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960. Lester's photographs from the civil rights movement era have been exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution and are part of Howard University's permanent collection. In addition to having hosted radio and television talk shows in New York City, Lester has also recorded two albums. Lester has published 25 children's books, as well as numerous works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry for adults. Translated into eight languages, his books have won the Newbery Honor Medal, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. Many of his titles have also been on the New York Times Outstanding Book list and the American Library Association's Notable Book list. Lester has written hundreds of reviews and essays for publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. After teaching for two years at the New School for Social Research in New York, Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in 1971. He is an award-winning professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department and an adjunct professor of History. He has given lectures at over 100 colleges and universities. Lester has five children and lives with his wife and cat in a small Western Massachusetts town. Acclaimed American artist Jerry Pinkney was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 22, 1939. He began drawing as a four-year-old child, studied commercial art at the Dobbins Vocational School, and received a full scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. After graduating, Pinkney worked in design and illustrations, helped found Kaleidoscope Studios, and later opened the Jerry Pinkney Studio. Pinkney is well-known as a children's book illustrator and has created the art for over one hundred titles, including Julius Lester's John Henry, Sam and the Tigers, and The Old African, plus adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl and The Nightingale. He has won five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards, four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, four New York Times Best Illustrated Book awards, the Hamilton King Award, and many others. He received the Virginia Hamilton Literary award from Kent State University in 2000, the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion in 2004, and the Original Art's Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators in 2006. Pinkney was awarded the 2009 Caldecott Medal. In addition to holding numerous one-man retrospectives and exhibiting his work in more than one hundred international group shows, Pinkney's art resides in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Delaware Art Museum, and the Brandywine River Art Museum. He has taught art at the Pratt Institute, the University of Delaware, and the University of Buffalo.
 
Published October 1, 1994 by Dial Books. 48 pages
Genres: Travel, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for John Henry

Kirkus Reviews

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Onto the page bounds the colossus John Henry, man of legend, man of myth (though the preface keeps things off balance on that point).

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Publishers Weekly

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A great American hero comes fully to life in this epic retelling filled with glorious, detailed watercolors. From his momentous birth, when all the animals come to see him and the sun won't go to bed,

Oct 03 1994 | Read Full Review of John Henry (Caldecott Honor B...

The New York Times

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Like ''Billy the Kid,'' Mr. Mitchell's ballet is a tribute to an American folk hero.

Jun 30 1988 | Read Full Review of John Henry (Caldecott Honor B...

Publishers Weekly

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As he writes in an introductory note, Lester (To Be a Slave ) explains that just as a composer creates variations around a musical theme, this story is "a set of variations around the theme of the color black," and that he has aimed to create figures of speech that associate black with "goodness ...

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Publishers Weekly

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His greatest feat is, of course, in his battle against the steam drill, as he races the machine to cut through ``a mountain as big as hurt feelings.'' He dies (``he had hammered so hard and so fast and so long that his big heart had burst''), but the onlookers understand that ``dying ain't import...

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