Rosemary Benet, , illus. by S.D. Schindler. . S&S/ McElderry, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82975-8

Armed with a deerskin bag full of apple seeds and wearing a tin pan for a hat, John Chapman—better known as Johnny Appleseed—is one of the more colorful characters in American history. His saga is succinctly and stylishly recounted in the Benéts' classic poem, first published in 1933, and here burnished with Schindler's detail-rich colored pencil illustrations. Crafted from quatrains as sturdy as the branches of the trees Chapman tends ("For fifty years over/ Of harvest and dew,/ He planted his apples/ Where no apples grew"), the verses trace how the hero traveled the Ohio River Valley sowing seeds for posterity. The poem's simple structure, pulsing cadence and clever thematic imagery ("At seventy-odd/ He was gnarled as could be,/ But ruddy and sound/ As a good apple tree") boost its impact as a read-aloud. Schindler (Don't Fidget a Feather) enhances a succession of realistic pastoral vistas with vivid characters and critters, from the jaunty Johnny himself, with his long white beard and weathered clothes, to the curious possum family dangling above the branch where he sleeps. The artist adheres to an earthy palette and sets his drawings against a parchment-like background, which adds a timeless air. An afterword from the Benéts' son puts the poem and its references in context. Ages 4-8. (July)