Pantheon Books (now Knopf), 1965
The legendary steel-driving man who was born, and died, with a hammer in his hand comes to life in this dramatic tale of heroism and destiny. Each page seems to radiate the vital force that led John Henry to challenge a steam drill to a rock-drilling contest—and win..
Take a Closer Look
Published three years after The Snowy Day, John Henry, an American Legend, is Ezra’s retelling of the saga of the steel-driving man. Both books are illustrated with a graphic boldness that mixes color and texture, collage and painting, abstraction and realism. But where Peter’s tale is gentle, John Henry’s is rugged and larger-than-life. The text is action-packed and should be read out loud; the art is powerful and emotionally rich. Ezra wants to make the legend come to life—giving his hero not only strong arms but also a face, and giving his work the immediacy of detail and of danger. Do you think he succeeds in making John Henry more mythic by showing him to be more human?