Books by Judith St. George

Released: June 1, 2009

This briskly paced, concise dual biography of Burr and Hamilton highlights the remarkable parallels the men shared: Both were orphaned at a young age; both attended the same New Jersey academy; both were brilliant students, attending college and earning law degrees; both were heroes in the American Revolution; both served on George Washington's staff; both would play prominent roles in the fledgling United States government. St. George effectively demonstrates how similar Burr and Hamilton were in personality—deeply driven, ambitious, arrogant men who proved to be thin-skinned when it came to the nastiness endemic to political and professional competition. Their lives were intertwined for 25 years in war, in legal practice, in business dealings and as bitter political rivals. The parallel narratives alternate smoothly, with a silhouette of the subject clearly indicating transitions. The author's ability to lucidly explain the political intricacies of the time is impressive, revealing to readers that politics were as ugly, if not uglier, in the nation's earliest days as they are now. (Biography. 12 & up)Read full book review >
ZARAFA by Judith St. George
Released: June 1, 2009

Zarafa the giraffe first traveled on camelback, then by a small, creaky boat, then a tall ship and, finally, walked 550 miles on her own four hooves. Why would a giraffe ever do all of that? In 1824, Muhammad Ali, the viceroy of Egypt, decided to present King Charles X with a beautiful, exotic gift—a giraffe (in Arabic, zarafa means "charming" or "lovely one"). But Zarafa had to travel all the way from Egypt to France, with her lanky neck and knobby-kneed legs growing the entire time. In her trademark witty yet informational style, St. George relates this epic journey with a jaunty text and quick, parenthetical quips. Spencer easily captures this essence as his long-lashed giant happily lopes through the pages, much to the delight of adoring crowds. His gentle human caricatures and almost-but-not-quite anthropomorphized animals are playful, expressive and fun (an attendant cow's seasickness is a particularly amusing detail). Thousands of visitors came to see Zarafa in France—no doubt many more will flock to this book. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
STAND TALL, ABE LINCOLN by Judith St. George
Released: Dec. 1, 2007

The latest in St. George's presidential Turning Points series follows young Abe from birth to leaving home, with special focus on the influence of his quiet mother and bustling, big-hearted stepmother. Aiming at readers who consider the presidents remote, Olympian figures, she selects vivid incidents from Lincoln's childhood and introduces each member of his extended family—also pointing out how his thoughtful nature reflected that of his mother Nancy, and then how his stepmother Sally both brought books into his life. Faulkner pushes faces to the forefront in his illustrations, capturing the distinct character of each member of the hardworking pioneer family, as well as that family's closeness both before and after Nancy's early death. Closing with a more complete capsule biography and a substantial bibliography, this puts Lincoln in proper historical perspective, but more unusually, provides probing insight into the personal qualities that made him one of our greatest chief executives. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2007

Now that they live in the White House, 11-year-old KayKay Granger has the perfect opportunity to hone her mystery-writing skills by sleeping in Lincoln's bedroom. But first she has to convince her mother, the president, to let her do it and her more timid younger sister to keep her company. After all, the rumors of its haunting might just be true. St. George, author of numerous mysteries as well as So You Want to Be President (2000), provides an imaginative glimpse behind the scenes at the White House in this ghost story for middle-grade readers. The premise, being children of the first female president, is intriguing. Character development takes a back seat to plot and setting; the off-limits Family Floor is the centerpiece here, with detailed descriptions of the long hallways and lavishly decorated rooms. While KayKay and Annie are thoroughly frightened by a parental trick, the actual ghost KayKay encounters is presented as completely ordinary, perhaps just a dream. A solid and not especially scary introduction to the ghost-story genre. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

Young Franklin Roosevelt moves beyond his spoiled childhood to a more mature resolve to pursue a life of service and action, like his cousin Theodore in this, the third of the "Turning Point" biographies. The breezy text depicts a boy secure in the knowledge that he is the center of the universe, cosseted by his doting mother. Although raised as a gentleman never to sully himself with politics, young Franklin's contacts with President Grover Cleveland, his thrilling cousin and the public-minded headmaster of Groton School, which he entered at age 14, convince him that politics represent excitement, power and, most important, an opportunity to serve. Spencer's ink-and-watercolor illustrations borrow, appropriately enough, from the conventions of political cartooning, oversized heads and exaggerated perspectives adding humor and movement to the narrative. St. George sketches her character deftly, adding quotations from Roosevelt's own writings to allow the boy to speak for himself. An author's note fills in the 32nd president's career after high school, emphasizing his commitment to the betterment of all Americans. All in all, it's an engaging entry in a pleasingly child-friendly series. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

For young readers who don't fancy becoming President (2000) or an Inventor (2002), St. George offers another career path—actually, several dozen paths, as under the aegis of "explorer" she includes not only such familiar figures as Columbus, Mary Kingsley, Amelia Earhart and Yuri Gagarin, but also a lengthy roster that includes the likes of test pilot Chuck Yeager, human genome mappers Francis Collins and Craig Venter, and David Kunst, who walked around the world. Readers will come away with a clear idea of what these and their fellow travelers accomplished, and when—and, more important, a sense of the courage, curiosity and other personal qualities that impelled them. She writes in an exuberant style—"Explorers tackle a quest with gusto. ‘Great' wasn't added to Alexander's name for nothing. . . . "—that Small's larger than life, extravagantly wrought caricatures echo perfectly. First-class inspirational reading: funny, fluent and on target. (biographical "glossary") (Nonfiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2005

This is undeniably winning; whether it is good, however, is up for discussion. St. George employs her lively style to chronicle the journeys of the Declaration of Independence (and its copies) through American history. Jefferson composed it, 25 copies were printed and the signers put their signatures to an engrossed version, i.e. written in large clear letters on parchment. It's that version that has been rolled up and hidden, recopied, hung in sunlight (which faded it), in a room with cigar smokers and a fireplace, restored and fought over by the Library of Congress and the National Archives. St. George casually races through American history. She makes a running joke that parchment must be rolled, not folded, but never explains why or what parchment is. The pictures, charming as they are, are certainly not meant to be historical (or literal) with their cartoony aspects and odd touches (the restoration folk treat the Declaration with cardiac monitors, stethoscope and test tube). Children will probably love it, but whether they will get any honest history out of it is a different question. (bibliography) (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2005

St. George follows You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt (p. 813) with another perceptive look at the formative years of another president-to-be. Here, she focuses on three major influences in young George's life: his admiration for his father Augustus; then after Gus's death, for older half-brother Lawrence; and finally, the character-building survey expedition that he joined into the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley at age 16. Though she mentions the Washington family's slaves, a domineering stepmother, and the early deaths of several siblings, in general St. George presents a rosy picture of the young squire's early life. Powers catches that tone, depicting Washington as a tall, smiling lad in fine but often rumpled colonial garb, with an oversize head, leonine mane of golden brown hair and piercing blue eyes. The author closes with a capsule history of Washington's later achievements, plus a bibliography aimed, inexplicably, at adults—but younger readers looking for insight into the Great Man's character, temperament, attitudes, and upbringing will find plenty to ponder in this engaging, focused study. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

The author of So You Want to Be President? (2000) opens a series of closer looks at turning points in the lives of future Chief Executives with this lively and handsomely designed account of Teddy—or "Teedy," as he was then known—Roosevelt's youth. She finds several watershed moments for puny, unathletic Teedy, from his discovery of the Great Outdoors, to a commitment to exercise inspired by this father's observation that "you must make your body," and an encounter with bullies that impelled him to take up boxing. She also highlights his love of natural history, introduces his parents and siblings, and chronicles the Roosevelt clan's travels to Europe and Egypt. Faulkner captures Teedy's boundless energy and determination in detail-rich scenes of the lad with his close, plainly well-to-do family, surrounded by his collections of animal specimens, and demonstrating his hard-won athletic prowess to a crowd of admiring relatives. Closing with a quick look at Roosevelt's presidency and after, this makes a rousing tale of obstacles overcome. (afterword, bibliography) (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Lightning doesn't strike twice for the award-winning team of So You Want To Be President? (2000). Seeking to inspire young readers who like to "tinker with machines that clink and clank, levers that pull, bells that ring, cogs that grind, switches that turn on and off, wires that vibrate, dials that spin," St. George reels off anecdotal, relentlessly exclamatory introductions to dozens of American and European inventors, from Gutenberg to Goodyear, George Washington to Clarence Birdseye. All of them, however, are dead, only three are women, and only two are nonwhite, so though their paths to success were diverse, as role models the people mentioned here make a limited gallery. Small mixes impressionistic renditions of featured inventions with freely drawn caricatures of their creators. As the overall visual tone is genial—even Joseph Guillotin is depicted proudly polishing his eponymous device as an anxious-looking matron is being positioned on it—the grim scene of ranked slaves feeding Whitney's cotton gin brings a sudden dissonance that pays no more than lip service to the less salutary effects of the industrial revolution. The author finishes with an exhortation to break barriers that children of different cultural or racial backgrounds (not to mention girls) may find unconvincing, considering the examples offered, and closes with biographical notes on some—not all—of the names she's dropped in the main text. The brief bibliography is a list of what may charitably be described as classic titles. Will this give some budding inventors that fire in the belly? Perhaps—but not as reliably as Don Wulffson's Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions (2000) or Nathan Aaseng's thematic collective biographies. (Nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 15, 2001

As the subtitle indicates, this dual biography focuses on the remarkable marriage of one of the nation's founders and his publicly silent but privately very vocal wife. Drawing heavily on primary source material, largely the letters of her two protagonists, both to each other and to third parties, St. George (So You Want to Be President?, 2000, etc.) crafts an engaging account of John Adams's political and diplomatic career, while carefully highlighting Abigail's role in it. John himself emerges as fiercely brilliant, vain, and stubborn; Abigail is witty, opinionated, and in equal parts utterly devoted to her husband and yet an independent thinker. As John works on the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, she writes, "I cannot say that I think you very generous to the Ladies, for while you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives." The lead-up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence occupies slightly less than half the book; the rest details Adams's difficult diplomatic career (during which he and Abigail were separated for years at a time), his even more difficult presidency, and finally a happy, domestic retirement. While St. George clearly holds more affection for Abigail than for John, she nevertheless works to present his later career sympathetically, sketching out the political landscape that influenced some of his more ill-considered decisions. Despite a certain breathless quality at times and the liberal use of exclamation points, this is a fine offering that presents an image of a marital partnership that was extraordinary for its time. One real drawback as a piece of nonfiction for children is that the bibliography, while extensive, includes no titles for young readers. (chronology, bibliography, Web sites, acknowledgments for archival illustrations, index) (Biography. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

Just in time for the presidential election, St. George (In the Line of Fire: Presidents Lives at Stake, 1999, etc.) uses the experiences of our 42 presidents to counsel youngsters harboring that uniquely American desire—to be president. Reflecting on the "good things about being President and . . . bad things about being President . . ." she offers a pleasingly diverse slate of facts and figures for her readers' consideration: age (the oldest—Reagan; the youngest—Teddy Roosevelt), size (the smallest—Madison—at 100 lbs., contrasting with Taft, at over 300), career choices (generals, lawyers, haberdashers, farmers), first names (six Jameses, four Johns, four Williams, two Georges, two Franklins), education (nine presidents never went to college, while one—Andrew Johnson—"didn't learn to write until after he was married"). At the close of this sometimes wry, sometimes sober survey (including impeachments, wars, and assassinations), St. George encourages: "If you want to be president—a good president—pattern yourself after the best . . . [those who] have asked more of themselves than they thought they could give . . . They [who] have had the courage, spirit, and will to do . . . [what's] right." Small's (The Huckabuck Family, 1999, etc.) pitch-perfect caricatures, rendered in a mix of watercolor, ink, and pastel, expand on the personalities and support the narrative's shifting moods. There's a helpful key to every illustration and a presidential chronology from Washington to Clinton. Even a few "non-presidents" are featured: Pat Nixon and Henry Kissinger watch (with future President Ford) President Nixon bowl in the White House lanes, and there's a wonderfully wry glimpse of two "also-ran's"—Jesse Jackson and Geraldine Ferraro—excluded from an across-the-centuries presidential reception by a velvet rope. A superb, kid-centered survey and a perfect way to enliven the perennial class unit on the presidents. (Nonfiction. 7-12)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 15, 1999

With insight and obvious skill, St. George (Sacagawea, 1997, etc.) recreates four presidential assassinations and six attempts, plus Squeaky Fromme's 1975 stunt with an unloaded gun. The author has little time for the assassins—McKinley's killer, Leon F. Czolgosz, is succinctly described as "a slightly built, rather handsome young man with large vacant eyes"—but surrounds her accounts of the incidents themselves with judicious evaluations of each president's character, career, and policies. She notes that Garfield and McKinley were killed not by bullets but by subsequent infections, presents the official version of JFK's death but leaves the door open for conspiracy theorists, and concludes with a look at the Secret Service (founded, ironically, by Lincoln the very day he was shot). Enhanced by plenty of black-and-white photographs and melodramatic period illustrations, and backed up by a substantial book list, this will not only give readers an eyewitness view of these tragedies and near-tragedies, but a deeper understanding of their causes, consequences, and of the people involved. (b&w photos, reproductions, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
SACAGAWEA by Judith St. George
Released: Sept. 22, 1997

So little is known of Sacagawea's life before or after the Lewis and Clark Expedition that its story and hers are virtually the same, but St. George (To See with the Heart, 1996, etc.) enhances her account of the journey's oft-told incidents and accomplishments with a character portrait based on research and her own intuition. St. George does not invent dialogue, but recreates scenes, such as Sacagawea's childhood capture by Minnetaree raiders, and suggests thoughts and attitudes: that Sacagawea would have marveled at the oddly regimented habits of the explorers and the way they continued to regard her people as children despite all evidence to the contrary; and that she lost her fear of them by watching them celebrate Christmas. As Sacagawea's pivotal role as translator, provisioner, and peacemaker is clearly laid out, she takes on a heroic cast, as a woman both savvy and wise, cool in emergencies (in sharp contrast to her no-account French-Canadian husband) and, with her newborn son, as much a comfort to the 33 members of the ``Corps of Discovery'' as she is an employee. It's a credible construct, enlivened by colorful details (``Dinner was spoiled elk, roots and rotten fish'') and supported with a sturdy bibliography (although no specific citations). (maps, not seen) (Biography. 11-13) Read full book review >
Released: May 7, 1996

Copious research substantiates this biography of Sitting Bull, but St. George (Dear Dr. Bell . . . Your Friend, Helen Keller, 1992, etc.) provides no real sense of the man or why he was considered a great leader. A labored text reads like a cut-and-paste exercise, a grinding out of fact after fact, without insights to behavior or an analysis of Sitting Bull as a real person. Much is made of Sitting Bull the warrior; nearly 100 pages precede the information that he was also a holy man who directed his life and the lives of the people for whom he was responsible through visions. Sitting Bull's joy in fatherhood is presented as dry fact; readers do not see any expression of the depth of his feelings until two-thirds into the book, when he mourns the death of a child. His noted sense of humor is not in evidence until the last pages of the book, when he tells a reporter that white people are ``a great people, as numerous as the flies that follow the buffalo.'' Some incidents beg for explanation, e.g., young Sitting Bull urges his warriors into battle with the cry, ``Saddle up; saddle up! We are going to fight the soldiers again.'' For those still unenlightened as to the bareback-rider stereotype, this is a startling sentence; without attribution in context or in notes, readers have no way of knowing the source of many quotations. (index, not seen, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 21, 1992

In 1886, six-year-old Helen Keller sat on Alexander Graham Bell's knee and played with his watch. Thus began a friendship that lasted until Bell's death in 1922, with Bell an enthusiastic supporter of all that Keller attempted. She dedicated The Story of My Life ``To Alexander Graham Bell, WHO has taught the deaf to speak and enabled the listening ear to hear speech from the Atlantic to the Rockies''; in later years, Bell even agreed to appear in a movie of Helen's life, though in the end he wasn't needed. Experienced author St. George has done considerable research into the correspondence and relationship between the two, as well as into their separate lives; in her narrative, Helen comes alive more effectively than Bell, who remains a somewhat distant icon. Helen's astonishing story is still poignant—a bright, impetuous, loving girl finding her way through the walls of blindness and deafness. Bell is portrayed as a somewhat pompous enigma, a compulsive inventor who wasn't particularly impressed with the telephone and who went to Nova Scotia to fly kites. Strange friends? De gustibus.... An interesting angle on both lives. Bibliography; 31 b&w photos not seen. (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 31, 1991

By describing the history of a well-known boundary, St. George (whose other fine books include The Panama Canal, 1989) expertly demonstrates how a narrowly defined subject can illuminate broader historical issues. Beginning with the 1730's, she details the troubled history of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, which led in 1763 to the employment (by descendants of Lord Baltimore and William Penn) of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey the boundary. Interspersing narrative with excerpts from Mason's diary, St. George depicts the often harrowing circumstances of the survey, which took five years to complete, then discusses the role of the boundary in the Revolution, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and even in one of North America's most severe earthquakes. A well-sourced narrative that ably interweaves personalities and events, most arrestingly in the case of George Washington, who began and ended his career along the Mason-Dixon line. The result is entertaining history from a fresh perspective. Not seen: maps, b&w photos, prints, bibliography, index. (Nonfiction. 10-14) Read full book review >

A thoroughly researched, detailed account of the planning and building of the Panama Canal, which the author describes as "a living monument to its builders, to their engineering genius, to their victory over disease, but most of all, to the dedication and courage of their human spirit." Along with enough technical detail to satisfy budding engineers, St. George's lucid explanations also make the process of construction comprehensible to more general readers. With its unvarnished look at the racist treatment of workers and Panamanians by the US government, the Panama Canal Company, and the Panama Canal Commission, the book also provides insight into the continuing conflicts between the US and Panama—from Roosevelt's "gunboat diplomacy" intervention in 1903 to the present. A fine piece of technical writing and political analysis—all in the accessible, cheerful, no-nonsense style made popular by Jean Fritz. St. George appends an extensive bibliography of her sources; the book is to include 60 historical photos and an index. Read full book review >