Title of article
Apples, Apples, Abundant Apples
Based on Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh
Johnny Appleseed book cover
One of our favorite fall picture books, Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh (1990; reprinted Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1993), brings the seasons, particularly fall, to life with engaging text and authentic folk art. Reeve Lindbergh details the life of legendary John Chapman, who distributed apple seeds across the American Midwest. Complementing the author’s storytelling is the brilliant creative work of widely known folk artist Kathy Jakobsen. She uses a broad palette of warm fall hues. Though this book is considered a picture book and engages readers of all ages, our younger learners prefer we read this book aloud, due to its advanced reading level. Older elementary children may choose to read the book independently.
John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, was born in Massachusetts in 1774. Considered a folk hero by some and a legend by others, Johnny is believed to have planted orchards as he carried apple seeds across the American frontier in the early 1800s.

A century is made up of one hundred years. Practice counting by tens to 100, orally. Write the numerals 1 through 100. Find the two-page spread in the book that mentions when Johnny planted trees. Read the text. “These apple trees were planted here, A century ago—A hundred years of springtime bloom, A hundred years of snow.”

Demonstrate fractions by cutting an apple in half, then in quarters, and finally in eighths. Read Apple Fractions by Jerry Pallotta (2002; reprinted Paw Prints, 2009).

Character is made up of a person’s qualities as determined by how he or she makes decisions, reacts to circumstances, and chooses to act. Character is what a person is known for or characterized by. Johnny Appleseed became known for several reasons. The text of this picture book tells the reader about Johnny’s character. Draw a tree on a piece of paper or on a white board. Write “Johnny Appleseed” vertically in the trunk of the tree. Add branches and draw apples hanging from the branches. On each apple, write a character trait mentioned in the book. Reread the book as needed to find more examples: kind (kind to all), giving (gave trees, planted trees for people), good steward (made things better, helped communities), caring (cared for the animals, loved his neighbors), respectful (respectful to all), and resourceful (not wasteful). There are others mentioned, too. Add apples as needed.

Make a timeline of events that happened during the life of John Chapman. Examples would be the events leading up to and taking place during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Print or draw pictures to illustrate the timeline.

Purchase several types of apples. Upon arriving home, make an apple graph. At the bottom of the graph, draw a picture of each apple, color the skin to match, and label with the name of the apple. Cut each apple into slices. Offer family members and friends a taste of each type of apple, adding a tally mark to the graph for each participant’s favorite types. When every participant has tasted the apples and preferences have been recorded, determine which apple type received the most and least tallies. Share the results with the people who participated.

Autumn is a great time to make and taste foods made with apples. Purchase or make apple products to taste, maybe apple pie, butter, juice, fritters, chips, or tarts. Read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (1994; reprinted Dragonfly Books, 2014). Locate the places mentioned in the book on a world map or globe.

The insides of an apple appear differently depending upon how they are cut. Cut one apple horizontally. Cut another vertically. Compare the cross sections. One view reveals a star in the middle of the apple and allows for the seed to be clearly visible. Count the seeds. Draw each view. Use the cross sections to make apple prints. To do so, place a thin, shallow layer of red or green paint on a paper plate or Styrofoam meat tray. Lightly press the apple in the paint and then onto a piece of construction paper. Use the prints to create a piece of art or to make cards for friends, family, or neighbors.

Apples in garden
Apples in garden
A legend is a historical story told for generations, but not necessarily documented with accurate details. Talk about how stories are passed from one generation to another, orally or in written format. How are stories, their authenticity or accuracy, affected by how they are told? How could these facets have affected the details of the story of Johnny Appleseed? What stories has your family passed down from one generation to another? If your family is interested in another telling of the life of John Chapman, consider Steven Kellogg’s Johnny Appleseed (HarperCollins, 1988).
Apple books are abundant! Gather a few, spread a blanket under a tree, and enjoy read-aloud time outside together. Some of our favorite apple books are Gail Gibbon’s nonfiction Apples (Holiday House, 2001), Dr. Seuss’s humorous fiction classic, Ten Apples Up on Top (Beginner Books, 1961), and The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1988). Happy fall reading!
You’ll find several activity sheets to help you implement the ideas from our Great Books articles in our brand new Autumn 2021 Activity Guide!