Happy President’s Day! Are you eating cherries — cherry pie? cherry cake? cherry turnovers?
In honor of that cherry-tree-chopper, George, here are a couple lighthearted books about him, plus a vintage beauty about Abe Lincoln that’s been reissued.
George Washington’s Mother, by Jean Fritz, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo
published in 1992 by Grosset & Dunlop
First up is an easy chapter book that my kids and I enjoyed many years ago.
Since it’s written by Jean Fritz, you know right off the bat that it will be a bit sassy and humorous, with that marvelous conversational tone that draws us in like a summer breeze.
Sure enough, what we discover about Mary Washington — George’s mom — is that she was a titch grumpy. A bit peevish. And a lot bossy when it came to George — even when he was off being a general!
However, she apparently made a mean pan of gingerbread, so there’s that.
You get to see George from a different vantage point as you read about his ticklish relationship with his strong-minded mum. The book is 48 pages, with nice big type and plentiful friendly watercolor illustrations. Probably about a second-grade level.
Dear Mr. Washington, by Lynn Cullen, illustrations by Nancy Carpenter
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Gilbert Stuart painted our most famous portrait of George Washington in 1796. Washington went to the Stuart residence to pose for it.
Apparently, George was Not Fond At All of having his picture painted. (Wouldn’t he hate to be president today?!?) And Stuart was flummoxed as to how to portray him when his expression was so grim!
This amusing story is a fictional account of George’s days posing for Gilbert, as told by one of the Stuart children, Charlotte. The household of children is a mad nest of mayhem even though Charlotte earnestly tries to learn and follow Washington’s Rules for Deportment.
Finally, a breakthrough comes — they happen upon a subject dear to George’s heart that makes his face ease into the slightest of smiles!
It’s a rambunctious tale, full of good humor, that slips a bit of history past you without you even knowing it.
Nancy Carpenter’s lighthearted illustrations add greatly to the warmth and chaos, as well as planting us in the 18th century. An Author’s Note tells more about the iconic painting, which you can see in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Great read for ages 4 or 5 and up.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, with designs by James Daugherty
published in 1947; updated edition with an afterword by Gabor Boritt published in 2013 by Albert Whitman & Co.
In 1947, America had just come through the Second World War. A mood of relief, gratitude, and patriotism filled our 48 states as well as a swelling hope that freedom, democracy and peace would remain with us and spread to others.
That’s the year James Daugherty created these tableaux illustrating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To Daugherty, the ideas Lincoln proclaimed in his short speech, and the ideals of post-war America, merged seamlessly.
For each phrase of the speech, Daugherty painted a robust, colorful, historic
this is a detail of one of the murals
scene which, taken together, march us through American history beginning with the arrival of the Pilgrims.
Now, he completely left out the First Americans, a glaring problem with this book. That dismays me, but let’s point that out to our children and then enjoy what’s here.
There are Puritans and Founding Fathers, slaves, pioneers, abolitionists and confederates, minutemen and World War II soldiers, Winston Churchill and FDR, scientists and architects…all painted in a muscular, idealized, WPA style.
Tossing seas, powerful eagles, purple mountains majesty, covered wagons, the torch of liberty, the scales of justice — many symbols crowd these murals as well.
It’s gorgeous work, surging with drama and emotion.
Additionally, this book contains Daugherty’s original Foreword and his commentary on each painting detailing the elements and personalities he included — extremely helpful! There is a lengthy Afterword providing historical background to the events at Gettysburg in 1863 and delving just a bit into Daugherty’s artwork. And there is what looks to me like a facsimile of the handwritten Gettysburg Address.
It’s an unusual, beautiful, and thought-provoking book to browse through for young and old.
Many more presidential biographies are in the Marmalade archives. Find them by searching the Subject Index under Holidays — President’s Day.