Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants

Tony Johnston, Author, Stacy Innerst, Illustrator
Tony Johnston, illus. by Stacy Innerst. Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-206145-6
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Open Ebook - 32 pages - 978-0-547-67782-8
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Using the scant facts available, Johnston (My Abuelita) offers a loose, tall-tale account, "stretche[d] to near popping," of how Levi Strauss came to be credited with creating the blue jeans that still bear his name. Strauss traveled from New York to California in 1853, years after the pioneering '49ers ("He rushed slowly, so he came late and missed the gold. ‘Dang!' said Levi Strauss"). Noticing the miners' threadbare—or nonexistent—pants, Strauss realized their need for "pants that last" ("Corduroy, wool, tweed, flannel, burlap... they didn't last long in the gold fields. Soon, every miner was sluicing for color in his long johns—or naked as a jaybird"). The durability of the canvas tents Strauss created for the men led to an "aha moment"—and the first jeans. Johnston creates an unrepentantly exaggerated version of events that is sure to entertain, offering more factual information about Strauss in an author's note. Using a bright idea of his own, Innerst (Lincoln Tells a Joke) chronicles the raucous action in acrylic paintings on a canvas of, yes, old Levi's jeans. The denim's texture provides an appropriately rugged tone to the colorful proceedings. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
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