Mr. George Baker

( 1 )

Overview

With subtlety and tenderness, Amy Hest tells the tale of an elderly man and a young boy linked by the common pursuit of learning to read, captured in expressive watercolors by Jon J Muth.

George can't read. A hundred years old, and he never learned how. "That must be corrected," says George.

George Baker and Harry don't seem the likeliest of friends. But sitting side by side on George's porch in the morning, waiting for the school bus to come, ...

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Overview

With subtlety and tenderness, Amy Hest tells the tale of an elderly man and a young boy linked by the common pursuit of learning to read, captured in expressive watercolors by Jon J Muth.

George can't read. A hundred years old, and he never learned how. "That must be corrected," says George.

George Baker and Harry don't seem the likeliest of friends. But sitting side by side on George's porch in the morning, waiting for the school bus to come, the two have plenty in common — this hundred-year-old musician with the crookedy fingers going tappidy on his knees and the young schoolboy whose shoelaces always need tying. They're both learning to read, and it's hard. What's easy is the warm friendship they share. In an inspired pairing, a best-selling author and illustrator pay quiet tribute to the power of language and intergenerational bonds.

Harry sits on the porch with Mr. George Baker, an African American who is one hundred years old but can still dance and play the drums, waiting for the school bus that will take them both to the class where they are learning to read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hest (the Baby Duck books) and Muth (Stone Soup) eloquently capture a friendship between two neighbors in the span of a morning wait for the school bus. First grader Harry and Mr. George Baker ("He's a hundred years old, no kidding," the boy claims), an African-American jazz drummer ("some people say he's famous"), share a special bond revealed through Harry's descriptive, first-person observations. "I really like his sweater,/ all hangy with three buttons./ It's chilly in the morning, and/ we both hug our knees./ And wait. We wait, watching/ leaves blow off trees." His youthful, sometimes lyrical narrative offers a peek into their understated relationship. "See his pants, all baggy, baggy, baggy?/ .../ There's candy in those pockets./ .../ George pops one in his mouth and I do too." But the biggest connection the two share is that they're both learning to read. Muth's soft watercolors maintain visual interest with varied perspectives of the same porch scene. In one, the pair sits similarly posed, arms crossed over knees, while another spread allows readers to peer out from the recesses of the porch, over their shoulders and identical book bags. With George's "crookedy fingers, going tappidy on his knees," Muth fluidly unveils a montage from a bygone era; a close-up of the man's large, dark hands fades downward into a nostalgic jazz club scene. When the bus finally arrives, both friends board, hand in hand. An upbeat, hopeful tale that speaks compellingly to intergenerational friendship. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Mr. George Baker is one hundred years old and he has decided it is time he learned to read. He waits for the school bus on his front steps as his young neighbor runs across the lawn to join him. Mr. Baker gives the boy a chocolate from his pocket and helps him tie his shoestrings so they will not come undone. He drums his fingers on his knees, reminiscent of his many years as a drummer. When Mrs. Baker brings out his lunch in a paper bag, he gets up and they enjoy an impromptu dance together. The young boy proudly helps Mr. Baker walk to the bus. When they arrive at school, they go to different classrooms, but they are both there for the same reason. They are there to learn to read and it is hard work. Colorful illustrations depict a loving relationship between the young white boy and the old black man. Told in the voice of the young boy, the story conveys a sense of innocence and joy. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 5 to 8.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-One-hundred-year-old George has decided to learn to read, so he waits for the school bus every morning along with his young neighbor, Harry. He studies with a group of grown-ups, while Harry does the same with his classmates down the hall. George is a musician, "a drummer man, and some people say he's famous." But to Harry, he is just a friend who shares the struggle of tackling a new skill. Harry narrates the story in short articulate sentences that present an uncomplicated picture of two unlikely friends. Watercolor illustrations depict the African-American man and the Caucasian boy and their warm relationship. The soft tones reflect the pensive feeling, but also capture the playfulness of George's rhythmic drumming as he practices reading. Interesting perspectives allow readers to see the characters from different angles-from the bottom of the porch steps looking up as they smile together, or from behind, showing matching postures and book bags. The spreads are beautifully composed-leaves swirl delicately from one side to the other, George and his wife do a graceful dance across the pages-all subtly pulling the eye from left to right. This book works well as a read-alone or a read-aloud and makes a good companion to Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker (Philomel, 1998).-Carolyn Janssen, Children's Learning Center of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gentle tale of intergenerational and interracial friendship. Mr. George Baker is Harry's 100-year-old ("no kidding") neighbor, a drummer man ("some people say he's famous"), who waits with Harry for the school bus. Together they munch chocolate candies on the porch; together they get on the bus. Harry and George are both learning to read, Harry with his peers, George in an adult education class down the hall: ". . . it's hard," thinks Harry. But "we can do it," says George. Hest's present-tense narration gets Harry's voice just right, as he corrects his grammar in his head and takes George's fame in stride. Muth's soft watercolors play with perspective, the tall, thin black man and the short red-headed boy completely at ease with each other. There's not much story here, just waiting for the bus, but the moment is captured sweetly, just in time for school. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781417790678
  • Publisher: Demco Media
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Hest is the author of many outstanding books for children, including the Baby Duck books, illustrated by Jill Barton. She also wrote YOU CAN DO IT, SAM; DON'T YOU FEEL WELL, SAM?; and KISS GOOD NIGHT, all illustrated by Anita Jeram. Two of her books, WHEN JESSIE CAME ACROSS THE SEA, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, and KISS GOOD NIGHT, were awarded the Christopher Medal.

Jon J Muth is the award-winning creator of several children's books, including STONE SOUP and THE THREE QUESTIONS. He illustrated COME ON, RAIN! by Karen Hesse and OLD TURTLE AND THE BROKEN TRUTH by Douglas Wood. His highly acclaimed comic books are published in Japan and the United States.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted July 22, 2013

    This tender picture book is a story of a beautiful friendship be

    This tender picture book is a story of a beautiful friendship between two unlikely people.  They are neighbours and Mr. George Baker is one hundred years old while his friend Harry is only in first grade.  Each morning they sit together on George's porch and suck chocolate candies while waiting for the bus to take them off to school.  You see George was an African-American jazz drummer in his prime, but unfortunately was never taught to read.  He knows that his illiteracy problem needs to be corrected so he is taking charge and doing something about it.  He is a very unique and brave man who makes that long journey to the local school each day determined to succeed in his quest to understand the written words on a page. Both he and Harry are bonded together because they are learning to read.  When the bus finally arrives they board it holding on to hands... happy to be together and looking out for each other.  At school Mr. Baker studies with a group of grown-ups while Harry does the same in his classroom down the hall.  The muted watercolours by Jon J. Muth, wash across the pages exposing simple and engaging images with many details to be enjoyed.  It is a hopeful, inspiring tale that speaks compellingly to intergenerational friendship.  It teaches us to respect people for who they are and appreciate their individualities.  It urges us to accept people regardless of their age, race or the challenges in their lives. 




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