This picture book is a simple tale of George Washington’s seventh birthday. He wakes up, excited: Happy birthday to me, he thinks.
His excitement is deflated by the normal-ness of the day; no one seems to remember his birthday. His mother complains about the cold, his step-brother gives him a hard time during George’s arithmetic lesson, he helps his father prune the cherry trees and he “gainfully employs himself” by writing up a list of ideas of civility. By the end of the day, his excitement is totally gone and he is the one who has forgotten about his own birthday.
But his family has not. They surprise him in the dining room, and his excitement—mixed now with appreciation and joy—returns in an instant.
The best part about this book: Along with the words of the story, there are text boxes with more information. Each box further explains that particular part of the story, and explains how that part of George Washington’s life is either fact or myth. For example, McNamara explains why the cherry tree story, a myth, was created. (And in a short epilogue, she explains how one man, Parson Weems, made up the myth to further his own book’s success!) And McNamara tells readers that the list he made up is a fact—he wrote 110 rules, actually, and carried the list around with him to help him remember how to be a gentleman.
This book provides the opportunity to teach kids the difference between fact and fiction, and introduces the concept of a myth or legend to many.
Also, the irony in the book smacked me in the face the second time I read it and made me smile: George Washington thought that his family forgot his birthday, then he forgets it, yet it became a national holiday—therefore no one forgets it now!
This book is a great example of how a great true (or, as the title suggests, mostly true) story is quite worthy of becoming a children’s book. I appreciate that now, when my son walks into the foyer of his preschool and looks at the giant print of George Washington, he knows a handful of facts—and myths—about him. Kudos to Margaret McNamara for creating the tale, and to Barry Blitt for providing the accompanying whimsical illustrations.
George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale
By Margaret McNamara
Iillustrated by Barry Blitt
Random House: www.randomhouse.com
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $13
|Easy to Read||4|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||5|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||4|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||yes|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at