Reviews for Farmer George Plants a Nation

Booklist Reviews 2008 February #2
With big, lush oil paintings and a detailed text, this picture book for older readers celebrates George Washington's role, not as victorious general and first president, but as lifelong farmer, who learned all he could about agriculture. He planted trees, bred mules, designed a barn, switched from growing tobacco to wheat, and experimented with all kinds of field crops, mixing fertilizers and compost to grow shrubs and vegetables. With quotes from Washington's diary and letters, the hands-on account of the great leader who was also a pioneer farmer will inspire young gardeners. Unfortunately, the idyllic pictures of smiling field hands (who are, of course, slaves) will jar children who know the tragic history and are reading this today. Thomas addresses this in a final note, explaining that Washington believed that slavery was wrong, but kept his concerns to himself. Includes a bibliography and a Mount Vernon Web site. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Fall
Readers may be surprised to learn that George Washington was a dedicated farmer with a fervor for agricultural experimentation. This book uses speculative third-person narration ("George's thoughts were never far from home") and includes excerpts from Washington's letters to help elucidate his enthusiasm. Rich-hued oil paintings (some of which are stiff) and back matter help extend and clarify the text. Reading list, timeline. Bib. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 January #1
A pleasing new picture book looks at George Washington's career through an agricultural lens. Sprinkling excerpts from his letters and diaries throughout to allow its subject to speak in his own voice, the narrative makes a convincing case for Washington's place as the nation's First Farmer. His innovations, in addition to applying the scientific method to compost, include a combination plow-tiller-harrow, the popularization of the mule and a two-level barn that put horses to work at threshing grain in any weather. Thomas integrates Washington's military and political adventures into her account, making clear that it was his frustration as a farmer that caused him to join the revolutionary cause. Lane's oil illustrations, while sometimes stiff, appropriately portray a man who was happiest when working the land. Backmatter includes a timeline, author's notes on both Mount Vernon and Washington the slaveholder, resources for further exploration and a bibliography. (Picture book/biography. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 February #1

Thomas (Joshua the Giant Frog ) and Johnson (Remembering Grandpa ) depict George Washington as a forward-thinking farmer dedicated to making Mount Vernon a self-sufficient, profitable plantation. Emphasizing Washington's innovative thinking and experimentation, the narrative explains how he invented a plow to streamline the planting of crops, rotated his crops and tested different fertilizers, bred donkeys and horses to create strong mules and designed a treading barn with 16 sides. Quotes from Washington's diaries and letters, presented in script outside the main text, demonstrate his devotion to improving his farm and lend credence to the author's assertion that "George's thoughts were never far from home," even during the Revolution and his presidency. Thomas's history is extremely detailed, full of facts that bring the 18th-century farm to life. She also addresses the obvious paradox: she concludes her work by praising Washington for "plant[ing] the seed of freedom on the battlefield," then explores his role as the owner of slaves in an endnote. Johnson's representational paintings, all of them flattering, incorporate symbols like bald eagles but also illuminate the workings of the plantation; a cutaway view of the 16-sided barn is especially helpful. A useful look at a lesser-known aspect of Washington's achievements. Ages 8-up. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 March

Gr 3-6-- This picture-book biography focuses on George Washington's life as a farmer, inventor, and scientist; however, the author also draws many parallels between his role as farmer and as leader. Washington's goal to make his estate self-sufficient carries over to his goal to make the new country independent. Thomas's enthusiasm for her subject is evident in her storytelling-style text. She not only used primary sources in her research, but also included several quotes from Washington's diaries and letters. These quotes are written in large script and inserted appropriately within the text. Johnson's oil paintings support the text while adding a feel of the 18th century. The balanced placement allows both the art and narrative to shine. The author includes useful back matter on visiting Mt. Vernon and an especially enlightening note on "George's Thoughts on Slavery." Endpapers show a map of Mt. Vernon taken from a drawing transmitted by General Washington. Students will find this title useful for reports, but will also find it a great nonfiction read.--Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

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