John Deere, That’s Who!


John Deere, That’s Who!
Written by Tracy Nelson Maurer, Illustrated by Tim Zeltner

Publisher’s Summary:
Back in the 1830s, who was a young blacksmith from Vermont, about to make his mark on American history? John Deere, that’s who! Who moved to Illinois, where farmers were struggling to plow through the thick, rich soil they called gumbo? Who tinkered and tweaked and tested until he invented a steel plow that sliced into the prairie easy as you please? Long before the first tractor, who changed farming forever? John Deere, that’s who!

Primary Source Pairing:
John Deere was a hard-working blacksmith, an imaginative entrepreneur, and a creative problem solver. This story focuses on John Deere’s early life when he first began his career as a blacksmith. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze a photograph of a blacksmith working in his shop in 1906. For students who may not be familiar with the John Deere tractors, use an image of the iconic green tractor to show them how John Deere’s ideas helped revolutionize farming.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • What do you see that connects to the book John Deere, That’s Who!?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“The Village Smith” photograph: Library of Congress
John Deere Website:

Additional Resources:
“John Deere Tractors at 100 — The Legend Runs On” video: YouTube