Education Resource Center

Book Review

John Deere, That’s Who!





By Tracy Nelson Maurer
Illustrated by Tim Zeltner
Henry Holt & Company





Do you know who invented the tractor? Most will answer that it was John Deere; but, they would be wrong.  John Deere invented a steel plow to plow the prairie and changed America forever.

Back in the middle of the 1830s, John Deere was a blacksmith from Vermont who moved West to make a better life for himself and his family.  He set up a blacksmith shop in Illinois and hoped to make enough money to send for his family. Deere found himself always repairing the heavy iron plows used by the farmers.  The dirt in Illinois was so thick and rich, the farmers called it “gumbo” because it stuck to the plows and had to be scraped off.  Deere had heard of plows designed to use lighter weight steel blades, but steel was hard to find in Illinois. So, he fashioned a steel plow from a broken saw from the nearby mill, curved it and shined it so it cut right through the gumbo. The farmers called it the “singing plow.” Soon, Deere was manufacturing the new blade for the framers and was able to bring his family West. The new plow allowed the farmers to plow faster and turned the prairies of the West into America’s breadbasket. Deere’s company sold not only the singing plows but other horse drawn farming equipment.  It was after Deere’s death that his company began selling John Deere tractors which came from the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company. The John Deere Company is one of America’s oldest manufacturing companies.

There are beautiful folk art illustrations to accompany the story and impress upon the reader that John Deere was an American hero. Included is a glossary, extensive bibliography and additional notes on Deere’s life. It is a great addition to the STEM library demonstrating problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

Grades K-3.