cover image A Natural Man: The True Story of John Henry

A Natural Man: The True Story of John Henry

Steve Sanfield. David R. Godine Publisher, $13.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-630-4

The ballad of John Henry is as much a part of American folklore as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill; the battle of man vs. machinefor which the victorious John Henry gave his lifeis one most school children know. Sanfield tells the legend anew, weaving familiar tidbits (that John Henry was born with his hammer in his hand) with splendid poetic images: ""There was a red, copper moon that didn't give off any light''; ``The Mississippi River ran upstream for a thousand miles, and John Henry was born.'' The fight to the death on the railroad linea death that John Henry predicted when he was twois grippingly told. Thornton's softly diffused black-and-white drawings capture the spirit of the talemoody and ominous in places, full of humor in others. Music and lyrics to one version of the ballad are provided in the back of this triumphant book about a genuine hero. (7-12)