to see the entire spread from which it comes)
I can say with confidence that this is the first time here at 7-Imp that I’ve featured illustrations rendered on blue jeans.
Yes, for Tony Johnston’s Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2011), illustrator Stacy Innerst painted with acrylics on old blue jeans, and it totally works.
This book, a barrel of fun (that’s a really bad pun that will make you cringe, once you go find yourself a copy), is—in the words of Johnston—“mostly legend with threads of truth, which my version stretches to near popping.” To be clear, there’s a closing author’s note that lays out the facts about Levi Strauss, but the narrative takes us on a tall-tale adventure, making this, incidentally, a great read-aloud to older elementary students.
And Johnston gets right to the exciting action on page one:
“GOLD!” somebody yelled. Next thing anybody knew, the whole world rushed to California and started digging up the place. The trouble was, they rushed so fast, they lost their pants.
Now, I ask you: What elementary kid isn’t gonna love that opening?
Johnston goes on to say that their pants actually disintegrated due to their flimsiness. “Soon, every miner was sluicing for color in his long johns—or naked as a jaybird. Yessir, all of California was mining in the vanilla.” OR … wearing barrels in the Great Barrel Rush.
Cue New Yorker Levi Strauss (who says “DANG!” a lot — did I mention what a great read-aloud this is?), realizing these men “need pants that last.” Making pants out of the miners’ tents (“indestructible tent pants”), he causes a stir and invites his brothers from New York City, needles in tow, to assist.
And I don’t want to give it all away, should you want to read it yourself, but this one’s got some flair, dear readers. “An outlandish whopper of a tall tale, this story just begs to be read aloud with an old-timey Western accent,” writes the School Library Journal review.
Mr. Innerst studied art and history at the University of New Mexico, as you can see at this page of his site, and there’s also a wonderful portfolio section at his site, including a “picture books” link.
Here’s a bit more art from the book. Enjoy.
‘DANG!’ said Levi Strauss. He blushed.”
(Click image to enlarge)
One day he was pondering that when his brain lit up. ‘DANG!’ said Levi Strauss.
He snatched up a hammer and rushed into the streets.”
(Click image to enlarge)
LEVI STRAUSS GETS A BRIGHT IDEA: A FAIRLY FABRICATED STORY OF A PAIR OF PANTS. Copyright © 2011 by Tony Johnston. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Stacy Innerst. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. Images reproduced with permission of the publisher.