Blue Jeans at Breakfast

h1 October 18th, 2011 by jules

(Click image to see the text more clearly and
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.

(Click image to see entire spread from which it comes)

“Pretty soon, each miner had a spanking new pair of tent-pants…. They were so overcome with gratitude, the men named their new gear after Levi himself.
‘DANG!’ said Levi Strauss. He blushed.”

(Click image to enlarge)

“Instead of the presidency, Levi Strauss ended up with a mountain of barrels. He scratched his beard. ‘Hmmmm,’ he said. ‘There’s a use for these. I wonder what?’
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.

11 comments to “Blue Jeans at Breakfast”

  1. Love the sound of this! And especially the idea of reading it with a twang in my voice 🙂

  2. Well, I sure do need a copy of this! What fun!

  3. What a brilliant book! 🙂 e

  4. Love the Levis as the canvas! Thanks for sharing Jules.

  5. Incredibly clever. Now I wonder if it will be marketed along with a pair of a Levi’s custom jeans??

    I’m in awe. Really. I worked many years for a retailer who sold exclusively Levi’s (Designs, Exclusively Levi’s–since dissolved)–wouldn’t they have loved to see this publication back then. 😉

  6. Looks like a super funny book! This one’s got some flair- ha, ha! Did I read too quickly and miss the boot cut pun? Or the skinny one?

  7. I’m always looking for great read alouds for my library students. This one fits the bill. That’s for dang sure!

  8. Hey! Those are my pants! Thank you, thank you (!) for writng about Levi.

  9. This book looks fabulous, what an inspiration. Thanks for showing us this Jules. Love all the work you put on your blog. Cheers, from Jules.

  10. Intriguing post. Thanks for sharing snippets of this including the importance of blue jeans in each illustration.

  11. […] on) and Paul Brewer, to released next month by Harcourt. It’s illustrated by Stacy Innerst (featured previously at 7-Imp in 2011), who wanted to grow up to be Ringo Starr, and I’ve got some more of his […]

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