retelling of the folk ballad / tall tale of John Henry, who was
stronger than a dozen men, had
a generous heart, and taught others the importance of a well-lived
text makes this
a story that
"begs to be read aloud"
(Publisher's Weekly). This book is a great
anytime read, but is especially fitting for American frontier or tall
tales units. Aside from his larger than life abilities, John Henry
models many positive virtues and attitudes. Lester integrated a
number of contemporary
references that help tie the story to modern times.
This book is highly recommend as a discussion starter about the personal traits that really made John great. Was it his tremendous feats of strength or was it how John Henry treated and cared for the people around him? This is definitely a book that kids can learn character traits from!
Interest Level: Grade 1 - 5
DRA Level: 40
Lexile Measure: AD720L
Guided Reading Level: S
Read-Aloud vs. Individual Reading:
For kids in first to fourth grade, this book will need to be a read-aloud rather than for individual reading, as children generally do not read on the reading level (difficulty level) of this book until the end of fourth grade. The majority of fifth graders should be able to read this book independently.
Below are the first four pages from inside this award winning book. "Pinkney's marvelous watercolors, abundantly rich in detail, convey both
the superior strength and the warm sense of humanity that make John
Henry perhaps a more down-to-earth character than some other tall-tale
figures. The paintings' muted earth tones add a realistic touch to the
text, bringing this John Henry alive." (School Library Journal)
The website Reading is Fundamental has a page with different activities to go with John Henry by Ezra Jack Keats. Given that both books are biographies, many of those activities can be used with this book as well. Access the page here: John Henry lesson / activity ideas #1
And, of course, there are loads of related activities for this book on the popular teacher website teacherspayteachers.com. (If you aren't familiar with this site, it's full of lesson plans, activities, learning games, and other curriculum materials made by teachers. We LOVE the site!!). To see these John Henry lesson / activity ideas, click the link.