By the age of 15, George Washington had written out a list of precepts taught to him by his teachers, the “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation,” by which he lived and was guided throughout his life.
Excerpts from this little-known historical document appear throughout this stolid picture-book biography of our first president, in which Washington describes some salient details of his life and career in the first person. The rules are worthy, but readers will note that there is usually no relationship between them and the facts presented on the same page. While the volume is stirring, there is no cohesion to the narrative, and it will not even serve report writers, as most dates and events go unmentioned, as do many highlights of Washington’s story. Only the notes to the artwork provide some factual context. Young readers wondering if Washington ever faced any setbacks will find no evidence of them here. What emerges from these pages is a larger-than-life icon with no warts. Wimmer’s paintings are masterful and dramatic, though some seem stiffly posed. The cover portrait is certainly rousing.
Washington remains an historic hero despite flaws and defeats. These are recounted in far more accomplished biographies, and children will be better served by reading about the real man elsewhere. (author’s note, artist’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)