Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend

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Johnny Appleseed: The Story Of A Legend is a  wonderful biography written and illustrated by Will Moses. His writing on the early explorer John Chapman will really open the eyes and imagination of children reading this book.

Johnny Appleseed was born in 1774 to Elizabeth and Nathaniel Chapman.  Johnny Appleseed went from town to town in his travels planting thousands of  apple seeds from Pennsylvania to Indiana. Along the way he comes across many different adventures and always seemed to take the path of a good caring and loving man. A section of the book that really touched me stated:

One man told of the time he met Johnny Appleseed on the trail and Johnny was shin deep on cold mud, wearing no shoes. The man kindly gave Johnny an old pair of boots from his own pack. But the next day, back in town, the traveling man saw Johnny again and he was once again barefoot. “What in the world did you do with the boots I have you yesterday?” he inquired of Johnny. “Well, sir, I came upon a poor soul who needed them worse than I,” was his only response.

I found this story to have a wonderful plot, but also to have such great values that we can all think about using more often in our everyday lives. This is definitely a story that your early elementary school students would learn a lot about. The main thing as a teacher you must remember is that everything in this book isn't historically correct. Making sure that you have other resources is key in using this book in the classroom. Overall this story is a wonderful children's book with beautiful pictures and meaningful text which portrays the inspiring life of Johnny Appleseed.

Curriculum Connections

This book does a great job of allowing students to recognize history and describing different events and people in the time period. Johnny Appleseed does a fantastic job of allowing students to follow a influential life of a man that traveled from Pennsylvania to Indiana treating people with respect and planting apple seeds along his way. This could work from VA SOL’s K.1, 2.3, and could be worked into many different VA SOL’s.

Additional Resources

  • Apples Apples and More Apples  is a wonderful resource for different lesson plans and apple activities to do with your class.
  • Johnny Appleseed’s Birthday  is all about the book Johnny Appleseed and contains activities dealing with Johnny Appleseed’s life. This lesson plan does a wonderful job of adapting to all the grade levels in elementary school. 
  • Color Johnny Appleseed has different pictures that you could print off and allow your students to color. This can allow time for the students to silently or in groups color and think/talk about everything they have learned about Johnny Appleseed.

Book: Johnny Appleseed: The Story Of A Legend
Author/ Illustrator: Will Moses
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 48 pages
Grades:  2-4
ISBN: 0399231536