Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea – Perfect Picture Book Friday

12 Feb

You may notice that I no longer have any widgets down the right column of my blog. I made the mistake of trying out a new blog theme for about 20 seconds then switched back. The widgets followed me to the new theme, but they abandoned me on my return. I feel betrayed by all things starting with the letter “W.”

Soooo, a “Happiness Engineer” is now toiling away behind the scenes, trying to engineer my happiness. Not sure it’s within the realm of possibility, but I am trying to keep calm and carry on. [UPDATE: Happiness Engineers Rock!! Widgets restored (most of them) “W” now stands for “WONDERFUL, WHIZ kids at WordPress!!”]

Here’s my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!
There is more tongue-in-cheek fact-stretching in Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea than you can shake a pair of Levis at, but it’s sooo much fun, you just don’t care. The author gives you the real low-down about the origins of Levi jeans in the back matter. The rest is pure, ah, fabrication. Take a look! 



The voice SCREAMS at you from the first sentence. This is what makes agents and editors turn the page and keep reading:

“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.




Well, they didn’t exactly lose them. The pants

just disintegrated. They were that flimsy.

Corduroy, wool tweed, flannel, burlap, velvet, worsted,

serge: they didn’t last long in the gold fields. Right quick

they got worked down to the size of a handkerchief.

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.


Filled with juicy language like “gnashing their clashers” and “rattling and racketing and rolling,” and coupled with illustrations painted on old jeans, this book’s a sure fire winner! If you want to do a craft with the kiddos, I’d suggest painting those ol’ blue jeans. Just make sure they’re the original Levi’s, OK?

Title: Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea

Author: Tony Johnston

Illustrator: Stacy Innerst

Publisher: Harcourt/Houghton

Year: 2011 (Yes, I know it’s not new, but it’s new to me!)

Ages: 3-8 yrs 


34 Responses to “Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. Carrie Rubin February 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    No doubt this one gets the kids laughing. Looks like a lot of fun. But sorry to hear about your widgets! What a stink-fest. Hope you get them back.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 12, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      My Happiness Engineer has not yet made me happy. This could prove fatal to the current blog and may accelerate the revamp I was planning. Sigh

  2. Mrs. P February 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I agree…being betrayed by all things W…is terrible! I’ve never heard of a Happiness Engineer…I want one of those!

    Levi Strauss…woo hoo! Brings back memories. I used to take the kids to the factory for tours…until the Loma Prieta earthquake shut it down.

    One of the stories in their readers was all about Levi jeans…san the fabrication. Believe it or not, the thrill of the trip was finding rivets on the floor as we passed the sewing factory. Rivets were gold as far as they were concerned!

    It really was a great tour…too bad it is no more.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 13, 2016 at 11:30 am #

      I wish I’d been able to take that tour! It sounds interesting and fun. And picking up rivets as if they were gold is quite fitting!

  3. dkatiepowellart February 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    Sooo sorry about your “W” — This sounds like a great book!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 12, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      I’m feeling naked without my widgets! And yes, the book will make kids want to read it over and over and over….

  4. FictionFan February 12, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    Ooh, look! Your widgets are back! I must admit the very term Happiness Engineer is enough to make me gnash my clashers and even on occasion clash my gnashers! I’m too scared to change themes – I preview and hover over the button but… nope, can’t do it!

    Worms, Wellington boots, wrigglers, witches, wishlists… Ws are wicked things…

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 12, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

      Yes, changing themes is the equivalent of a thousand Tuesday Terrors!

  5. Ste J February 13, 2016 at 2:34 am #

    I love the language, the gold rush is something that I don;t know much about, I love it when kids books teach me things as well as amuse me.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 13, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      Yes, this one is high on amusement. It’s not until you read the author’s note in the back matter that you get the “real” truth. But it’s fun getting there. 😀

  6. Lady Fancifull February 13, 2016 at 4:38 am #

    I’m so pleased the Happiness Engineers managed to make you happy again. I’ve given up (almost) looking at new themes to see if there are any I like more, because losing what I have is too scary to contemplate. I have a private’sandbox’ other site, where I occasionally try out different themes, on some of my preexisting posts, but so far there is always SOMETHING which isn’t properly translating over. And I love my widgets. It’s all my complicated indexing which I found a way to work for me, very early on, on the theme I have, which would be an unbearable loss. So my BAD LETTER would be I

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 13, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      Yes, I understand. The letter “I” can be quite the roadblock. So true. I’m not sure I can count on the Happiness Engineers to save the day next time.

      • Lady Fancifull February 13, 2016 at 11:25 am #

        Well, if they can’t, they surely lose the accuracy of their title, in your case!

  7. Vanessa-Jane Chapman February 13, 2016 at 5:15 am #

    Thank goodness the widgets are back! Well I never saw them gone, so I must just take your word for it that they were.

    The book sounds wacky and fun, hurrah for wacky and fun! Hey, that sounds like a kids book doesn’t it “Hurrah for Wacky and Fun!” I might write it…

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 13, 2016 at 11:21 am #

      Please do! I think you would write hilarious children’s books!

  8. heylookawriterfellow February 13, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    That book sure knows how to grab ya. I love it!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

      Yeah, pretty much by the collar and won’t let you go. Kinda like an entertaining uncle whose stories keep you laughing and begging for more.

  9. Laurel Leigh February 14, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    You are one wickedly funny writer. I love this concept, and it is going to have the kiddies in stitches!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 15, 2016 at 10:58 am #

      I think the writer of this book is wickedly funny. Me? I have good days, and I have bad ones. 😀

  10. Kate Johnston February 15, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    This looks like a funny book. The art even made me laugh. Looks like your Happiness Engineer helped retrieve your widgets — glad for that! Nothing worse than a half-naked blog!! 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 15, 2016 at 11:02 am #

      Yes, I was feeling so—exposed! 😀

      As far as the artwork, it’s wonderful! Handpainted illustrations on jeans, how perfect! And when the illustrator makes the journey from having naked miners wear barrels and then replace the barrels with jeans, leaving the barrels to become the building blocks for the city of San Francisco, it’s a stroke of genius. Imagine The TransAmerica Pyramid made out of whisky barrels. Genius.

  11. Catherine Johnson February 15, 2016 at 1:41 pm #


  12. Britt Skrabanek February 16, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

    Happiness Engineers to the rescue, eh? LOL, glad everything turned out okay, hon.

    I’ve been feeling the itch to change up my theme again, but then I remember it’s no quick thing. Drama is inevitable. I’ll wait for a while. 🙂

  13. julie rowan zoch March 18, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Great minds, Jilanne! I recently became fb-friends with Stacy, and took out all the books I could from the library. Great stuff!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann March 18, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Yes, my library pile is threatening to leave a divot in the floor. ReFoReMo is responsible. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

      • julie rowan zoch March 18, 2016 at 11:44 am #

        I handed in a job app today, and was asked how many books I read last mth. I played it down, to 150PBs, but it was closer to twice that!

        • Jilanne Hoffmann March 18, 2016 at 11:49 am #

          Awesome!!!!! Your library must LOVE you! I’m thinking we could use PBs to bail with, if the house ever starts to list. Either that or spread the books evenly throughout.

        • julie rowan zoch March 18, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

          Lift? Do you live in KS? I thought you were in CA.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann March 18, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

          Lift? Not sure what you mean. I wrote “list” didn’t I? Gotta make the text on my PC bigger to make sure. “List” as in the boat is listing. I live in San Francisco. My husband loves sailing, so I often think in these terms. 😀

        • julie rowan zoch March 18, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

          Yep, I thought you meant to write lift! Made more sense in that moment! Have fun, Dorothy!

        • Jilanne Hoffmann March 18, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

          Now that I think more about it, It get it. Toto, we’re not in Kansas, anymore. 😀

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