Reviews for George Washington's Birthday : A Mostly True Tale

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
A young George Washington awakes on his seventh birthday with a hope familiar to seven-year-olds everywhere: that his birthday will be special. Instead, he has a day filled with events that will find their way into history books. He notes and records the weather. He throws a rock across the Rappahannock River. He chops down a cherry tree. And then, finally, there's a surprise party, and the promise that George's birthday will be remembered in perpetuity. McNamara peppers a colloquial narrative with factual asides set apart with decorated borders. Blitt matches the ebullient tone with spare, sketchy watercolors dressed with period accoutrements and peopled with bright, gangly caricatures. Young George is shown as a statesman in miniature, dressed in a founding father's garb, complete with powdered wig (which, we learn, he never really wore). In a first person afterword, George himself traces the line between fact and fiction, adding a meta-nod to the intentional, meaningful blur. This will not only entertain young readers, but also offer a beginning look at the many varieties of truth. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
McNamara debunks the cherry tree fable plus others, intermingling them with real facts to imagine Washington's seventh birthday. Boxed notes distinguish truth from fancy, as does George's page-long first-person concluding note, which also summarizes his later life. Blitt's energetic, lighthearted pen and watercolor art, in colonial blues and browns, is evocative of the period while augmenting the text's humor.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
Parson Weems's notorious cherry tree fable is a canonical case of fiction adopted as historical fact. McNamara debunks that particular fiction plus others (no, GW didn't actually wear a wig), intermingling them with real facts to imagine Washington's seventh birthday. Boxed notes distinguish truth from fancy ("Fact: The Washingtons would not have thrown a party for George, but they might have had a large family dinner on his birthday"). The cherry tree legend includes some lively dialogue here, plus an appropriate consequence ("chop it up now...and put it in the woodshed to dry," says his father). George's page-long first-person concluding note sorts out the truth once again while summarizing his later life and commenting that "it's funny to think that a story about the truth was actually not true!" -- a double irony since of course this note was actually authored by McNamara. "George's" last comment brings us neatly around to the holiday: "My mama was right -- nobody forgets my birthday anymore!" Blitt's energetic pen and watercolor art, in colonial blues and browns, is appropriately lighthearted, evocative of the period while augmenting the humor (busy little George wears that mythical wig throughout) and slipping in a newspaper headline with a twenty-first-century reference: "Don't Axe Don't Tell Repealed." Altogether, a good introduction to this Founding Father -- and to a healthy skepticism toward any kind of unexamined information. joanna rudge long

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
This potentially amusing blend of story and historical fact feels a bit strained. "When George Washington went to sleep Friday night, he was six years old. When he woke up on Saturday, he was seven." Eager to observe his birthday but thwarted throughout the day, George studies with older brother Augustine, spends a bored few minutes heaving rocks across the Rappahannock, helps his father prune the cherry trees with disastrous results and finally celebrates at dinner with his loving family. The boy's concerns about a seemingly forgotten birthday will resonate with young readers, and Blitt's signature caricature style in watercolor is lively and droll. McNamara offers both facts and myths--presented in bordered inset captions--about the grownup George that relate to her fictional account of his seventh birthday. For example, as George crosses an icy creek carrying the remains of the cherry tree ("Hope I never have to do this again"), the caption reveals that in fact he had to cross the Delaware many times "in one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War." The author offers a first-person narrative in Washington's voice, "George Washington Tells the Truth," following the picture-book story. Overall the connection between the boy and the future general and president is labored and tenuous, and it may well baffle young readers unfamiliar with most of those stories. (Picture book. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #1

It's George Washington's seventh birthday, but he can't get anyone to acknowledge it. "Another cold day," he says, dropping a 10-ton hint on his harried mother. "But I guess there's nothing special about that." His stern father isn't cutting him any slack, either. "Now clean your face and hands and powder your wig and occupy yourself gainfully until dinnertime," says Mr. Washington after George has carried out some punitive chores (the consequences of taking out his frustrations on a cherry tree). As Blitt (The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn) chronicles George's slow burn in his elegant, irreverent ink line, McNamara (The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot) serves up delicious ironies ("Someday I'll be the boss of you," George mumbles prophetically as he's being condescended to by his "tyrant" of an older brother). She also sets the record straight with asides labeled "Myth" (George did not throw a stone across the Rappa-hannock) and "Fact." This book should add at least a few giggles to any Presidents' Day festivities, while reminding readers that every great man starts out small. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 January

K-Gr 2--On his seventh birthday, young George waits for his family to remember his special day while working hard and displaying the characteristics for which he is famous (honesty, studiousness, etc.). The text is a mix of fictional narrative and factual sidebars. Oddly, the story itself reinforces some of the myths debunked by the fact boxes; for instance, George is shown in a wig despite the footnote that explains how he only powdered his hair. A final note in Washington's voice clarifies the true facts behind the story, including an intriguing but unexplained mention that the calendar was different in 1732, so that his birthday was actually February 11, not February 22. The loose, cartoony watercolors by New Yorker artist Blitt impart a wry humor, and the muted palette gives a colonial flavor. The tale is mildly amusing and certainly informational, but the tension between fact and fiction may prove confusing to young readers. Teachers seeking material for Washington's Birthday may find this book is good filler, but it is not a first purchase.--Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September
Gr 1-4-Young George wakes up on the morning of his seventh birthday expecting but receiving no special notice from his family. As the tall tale plays out, McNamara includes elegantly trimmed sidebars with information confirming or supplanting events presented in the story. The watercolor illustrations, a blend of whimsy and realism, provide a perfect balance. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.