The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman

By Esme Raji Codell. Illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins

Greenwillow. $16.99. Ages 4 and up

‘Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John 'Appleseed' Chapman’ by Esme Raji Codell and Lynne Rae Perkins. (Greenwillow)

An American figure celebrated more often in tall tales and song than in history books, Johnny Appleseed was indeed an actual man, John Chapman, born in Massachusetts in 1774. Esme Raji Codell and illustrator Lynne Rae Perkins begin their picture-book ode with an appeal to children to imagine the early landscape of America: “a tangle . . . of roots and branches and wide tree trunks.” They’re not suggesting we all return to the woods but rather that we appreciate Chapman’s kind-hearted rules for living, such as “Use what you have,” “Share what you have,” “Respect nature” and “Try to make peace where there is war.” A friend to Native Americans and pioneers heading West, and to animals large and small, Chapman was a highly personable soul, and Perkins’s images are likewise extremely engaging. From the shiny apples on the book jacket to the scenes of Chapman roaming the countryside, the artwork invites readers to settle down and enjoy the view. Deftly incorporating the figures of a boy and girl throughout, Perkins also includes an embroidered sampler that conveys the expanse of Chapman’s tree-planting enterprise. The book ends with an invitation to “make our country and our world a better place,” as Chapman did — “seed by seed, deed by deed” — and a welcome recipe for apple pie.

Abby McGanney Nolan