Johnny Appleseed was a legend even in his own time-stories abounded about the kindhearted woodsman who planted thousands of apple seeds from Pennsylvania to Indiana. The real Johnny Appleseed was born John Chapman in a small village in Massachusetts. When he was a young man, he set off for the western frontier and along the way collected bags of apple seeds from cider mills. As John Chapman's apple orchards grew in number, so did the tales of Johnny Appleseed. In this wise and witty story, Will Moses relates the life of a great American folk hero who helped open and tame the wild frontier.
Employing an intriguing blend of biography, comparative literature and good old-fashioned yarn-spinning, Moses (Silent Night; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) explores the life and times of Johnny Appleseed, the great tree hugger and tree planter from American folklore. Appleseed, who began life as John Chapman, born in Massachusetts in 1774, had always longed to "live as he wanted, free like the Indians and the animals," in the wild woods and undeveloped lands of early America. At the leisurely pace of a stroll through a country orchard, Moses fashions his own homespun account of Johnny's adventures by touching upon myriad legends and tales. According to the narrative, as a young man Johnny headed west to the frontier, where the ideas that formed his lifelong vision took shape: "apples were good for just about everything" and the versatile fruit was "just what the frontier needed." Living in the woods, often tattered and scruffy in appearance, Johnny roamed the wilds of western Pennsylvania and the Ohio frontier planting apple seeds and saplings and helping pioneers do the same. His reputation for kindness and generosity, as well as for his strange behavior, grew even after his death in 1845. Delicate, folk-art oil paintings capture the eccentric folk hero in his "outlandish hat a soup pot one day, a pasteboard cap the next" as well as America at its bucolic best a rolling land of fertile hills, farms and rivers and, of course, bountiful, blossoming apple trees. All ages.