George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Tale


From award-winning author Margaret McNamara and New Yorker artist Barry Blitt comes this partly true and completely funny story of George Washington's 7th birthday. In this clever approach to history, readers will discover the truths and myths about George Washington. Did George Washington wear a wig? No. Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? Probably not. Readers young and old who are used to seeing George Washington as an old man, will get a new look at the first president—as a kid. Perfect for ...

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From award-winning author Margaret McNamara and New Yorker artist Barry Blitt comes this partly true and completely funny story of George Washington's 7th birthday. In this clever approach to history, readers will discover the truths and myths about George Washington. Did George Washington wear a wig? No. Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? Probably not. Readers young and old who are used to seeing George Washington as an old man, will get a new look at the first president—as a kid. Perfect for classrooms, Presidents' Day, or as a birthday gift.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s George Washington’s seventh birthday, but he can’t get anyone to acknowledge it. “Another cold day,” he says, dropping a 10-ton hint on his harried mother. “But I guess there’s nothing special about that.” His stern father isn’t cutting him any slack, either. “Now clean your face and hands and powder your wig and occupy yourself gainfully until dinnertime,” says Mr. Washington after George has carried out some punitive chores (the consequences of taking out his frustrations on a cherry tree). As Blitt (The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn) chronicles George’s slow burn in his elegant, irreverent ink line, McNamara (The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot) serves up delicious ironies (“Someday I’ll be the boss of you,” George mumbles prophetically as he’s being condescended to by his “tyrant” of an older brother). She also sets the record straight with asides labeled “Myth” (George did not throw a stone across the Rappa-hannock) and “Fact.” This book should add at least a few giggles to any Presidents’ Day festivities, while reminding readers that every great man starts out small. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
When young George Washington woke up on his seventh birthday, he wanted his family to recognize the importance of the day. Instead, he did all the tasks he normally did, including lessons with his older half-brother. Author McNamara treats some of the myths surrounding the first president as possibilities, although she explains the facts in sidebars that accompany each event. George was, in fact, fascinated by the weather all his life and he did make a list of rules to live by. Whether he made the list on the day of his seventh birthday is not known. It is unlikely that he threw a rock across the Rappahannock River or that he chopped down his father's cherry tree. Whimsical watercolor and ink illustrations lend some additional humor to the story—George appears as a miniature statesman in his powdered wig, coat and breeches, for example. At the end of the book there is a narrative in first person (supposedly by the grown-up George Washington) debunking some of the myths that have been perpetuated about his life. Young readers will appreciate the humor in the story and adults will appreciate the explanation of the various legends about George Washington. Recommended. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
Kirkus Reviews
This potentially amusing blend of story and historical fact feels a bit strained. "When George Washington went to sleep Friday night, he was six years old. When he woke up on Saturday, he was seven." Eager to observe his birthday but thwarted throughout the day, George studies with older brother Augustine, spends a bored few minutes heaving rocks across the Rappahannock, helps his father prune the cherry trees with disastrous results and finally celebrates at dinner with his loving family. The boy's concerns about a seemingly forgotten birthday will resonate with young readers, and Blitt's signature caricature style in watercolor is lively and droll. McNamara offers both facts and myths--presented in bordered inset captions--about the grownup George that relate to her fictional account of his seventh birthday. For example, as George crosses an icy creek carrying the remains of the cherry tree ("Hope I never have to do this again"), the caption reveals that in fact he had to cross the Delaware many times "in one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War." The author offers a first-person narrative in Washington's voice, "George Washington Tells the Truth," following the picture-book story. Overall the connection between the boy and the future general and president is labored and tenuous, and it may well baffle young readers unfamiliar with most of those stories. (Picture book. 7-10)
Pamela Paul
Purists may resist Washington as a moody youngster, but McNamara…knows how to win over 6-year-old fans.
—The New York Times Book Review
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—On his seventh birthday, young George waits for his family to remember his special day while working hard and displaying the characteristics for which he is famous (honesty, studiousness, etc.). The text is a mix of fictional narrative and factual sidebars. Oddly, the story itself reinforces some of the myths debunked by the fact boxes; for instance, George is shown in a wig despite the footnote that explains how he only powdered his hair. A final note in Washington's voice clarifies the true facts behind the story, including an intriguing but unexplained mention that the calendar was different in 1732, so that his birthday was actually February 11, not February 22. The loose, cartoony watercolors by New Yorker artist Blitt impart a wry humor, and the muted palette gives a colonial flavor. The tale is mildly amusing and certainly informational, but the tension between fact and fiction may prove confusing to young readers. Teachers seeking material for Washington's Birthday may find this book is good filler, but it is not a first purchase.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375844997
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 556,216
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

MARGARET MCNAMARA is the author of How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, called "illuminating" by FamilyFun Magazine and recommended as "a first-purchase consideration" by School Library Journal, and most recently of The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, illustrated by Mark Fearing. She is also the author of the popular Robin Hill School early reader series which sold more than 1.5 million copies. She lives in New York City.

BARRY BLITT's illustrations have appeared on the cover of the New Yorker and have also graced the pages of the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Child Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly. He is the illustrator of the children's books The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven by Jonah Winter, as well as Once Upon a Time, the End: Asleep in 60 Seconds by Geoffrey Kloske.

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