Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Levi Straus and blue jeans

Levi Straus and blue jeans

Nathan Olson
Illustrator:  Dave Hoover , Charles Barnett III , Keith Williams 
Nonfiction Graphic Novel  Series
For ages 7 to 10
Capstone Press, 2007   ISBN: 0736864849

In the 1840’s Levi Strauss was working as a peddler in the Kentucky countryside. When he heard that many of the locals had left Kentucky to go to California to look for gold, he decided that he too would go west. After all, he could “sell goods in California as well as anywhere else.”

After a long journey Levi arrived in San Francisco. He was amazed to discover how much the people there would pay for basic necessities like boots and cooking pots. Clearly there was a considerable lack of supplies in the boom town. He carried fabric and canvas in his pack and he tried to sell the canvas for making tents. Then one of the miners told him that what he needed was “a decent pair of pants.”

So Levi decided to make some pants with the canvas that he had in his pack. The pants he made were strong and durable and it was not long before miners were coming to Levi’s sister’s store in San Francisco looking for a pair of Levi’s wonderful pants. The problem was that there wasn’t enough canvas in town to make the pants with. Levi bought up all the canvas he could find, including the sails of abandoned ships.

So he wrote to his brothers who lived in New York City and who owned a store, and he asked them to send him as much canvas as they could find. They managed to get some fabric but it was not canvas; instead they had sent him denim from France which was strong but also comfortable.

Levi’s denim pants became so popular that in 1866 he was able to build a big and luxurious store. His business kept expanding and new innovations were added to the pants. Copper rivets made the pockets stronger than ever, and a design on the back pockets made the pants unique. Then a leather patch was added to the waistband. These 501 “jeans” would become a line which is still being sold in stores all over the world today.

Almost everybody wears jeans these days and children will enjoy finding out how jeans came to be invented, and how a poor peddler became a wealthy and prosperous man. In this book this wonderful story is it told in an engaging way which will certainly capture the attention of readers. With its graphic novel format the book is a perfect fit for reluctant readers. In addition to the main text there is a section at the back of the book which tells the reader more about Levi Strauss and his time. There is also a glossary, a list of Internet sites, a “Read More” section, a bibliography, and an index.

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