Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Sun, the Rain, and the Apple Seed: A Novel of Johnny Appleseed’s Life

The Sun, the Rain, and the Apple Seed: A Novel of Johnny Appleseed’s Life

Lynda Durrant
For ages 12 and up
Clarion, 2003   ISBN: 978-0618234875

From the time he was sixteen John Chapman knew that somehow his life was to be tied to the apple tree for he saw it as being a gift from God, a gift that kept on giving to those who needed food and succour. One tree after all could produce enough fruit to feed a family all winter. John knew in his heart that he wanted to give to others, that that was what he was supposed to do, and yet he did not know how he was to do it. Then, one day he went to get cider from a cider press near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. At the press he saw the workers dumping piles and piles of apple seeds left from the pressing into the river which ran nearby. There and then he knew that his mission was to take those seeds out into the wilderness, to the places where frontier seekers might settle, and to plant orchards of apple trees. The settlers would always have the apples to fall back on when times were hard and food was scarce. In his naive way John thought that having apple trees, having enough food, could mean that man would stop wanting to fight, to stop warring on his neighbours.

As he planted his orchards, as he suffered in the wild places with insufficient food, clothing and shelter, John saw the beauty of the natural world and he loved it. He also loved the wild creatures that lived there, going about his planting business as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the animals about him.

As he went about planting his orchards John also made friends. He became known to farmers, soldiers, Indians, and many others. It was a child in one the farm houses that he stayed in who first called John "Johnny Appleseed." He became well-known and beloved to so many people even though he was, without a doubt, very odd. For Johnny saw angels, he had two "spirit-wives" who accompanied him everywhere, and he often forgot to speak in "normal English" and chose to speak in bible verse instead. Strange he certainly was but more importantly, Johnny was a good man, a man who thought only of giving to others, of working towards creating a peaceful world free of hunger and war. He also believed in protecting the wild places and despaired when he saw so much of the wilderness disappearing as more and more people settled the land.

In this remarkable book we learn about the various adventures that Johnny had in his long and generous life, but more importantly we are given the opportunity to discover what the inner Johnny might have been like. Although we come to realize that the man was not quite all there, that he lived in a dream world "three feet above the ground," we also see that he was nonetheless a man of great wisdom. His ideas were simple ones, his ideal world was a simple place. It would not hurt in fact if we all have a little of the Johnny Appleseed in us for maybe then we would remember to stop running so fast through our lives, to appreciate what we have, to care for our world and each other, and to make a mark on the world by "giving something back" just as Johnny Appleseed did.