Monday, February 16, 2009

FOR PRESIDENT'S DAY: Farmer George Plants a Nation gets Starred Reviews

I grew up with George Washington. Didn't we all go through school with his portrait hovering on the classroom wall? He was the ultimate statesman, the brave warrior, the cutter down of cherry trees...

Wait... hold it right there! Remember that story about George telling his father, "I cannot tell a lie"? Apparently it's a myth that emerged after Washington's death.

Peggy Thomas, author of Farmer George Plants a Nation has done some amazing research on our first president. The result is an unusual portrait of a most accessible man. Perhaps I resonate with this book because the opening line could be talking about my father.

"George Washington dug his hand into the newly tilled earth and let the hard, dry clay crumble through his long fingers."

Just last week I snapped this picture of Daddy working a few pea seeds into the dirt. He always plants his peas in February!

Farmer George Plants a Nation is loaded with dozens of humanizing images of George - as a farmer devising better planting methods, as a host discussing gardening over a dinner of homegrown vegetables, as an army general writing a sixteen page letter to his farm managers, and as a president discussing manure with Thomas Jefferson!

One of the very cool things about this book is the inclusion of snippets from George's letters.

"I mean to have groves of Trees at each end of the dwelling House... to range in a line from the South East Corner to Colo. Fairfax's... (1776)

There are so many treats here that I can't possibly show you - little known details about the man with a passion for gardening and full color paintings by Layne Johnson that complement the text like a mule with a plow! (Yes, Farmer George was a breeder of mules!)

If your school library (or homeschool) doesn't own this book, then give yourself a President's Day gift. Your students will love this unexpected portrayal of our first president.

The book's backmatter includes a Timeline, George's Thoughts on Slavery, a Bibliography, and sections with info about Mount Vernon. Follow this link and I do mean, run - don't walk to Mount Vernon's website. You won't believe the amount of information you can find by following your clicker finger around.

Full confession here. I have never visited Mount Vernon. To me, George Washington has mostly been a portrait on a wall - a politician, a soldier, a chopper down of trees. But this beautiful portrayal of the gentle farmer makes me want to jump in my car and head to Virginia.

And I just returned from Virginia last night!

P.S. Sneak a peek at Farmer George on YouTube!

P.P.S. Farmer George was published by Calkins Creek Books and edited by the best of the best, Carolyn Yoder.