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George Washington's World Review by Jill HardyGenevieve Foster
Beautiful Feet Books
1306 Mill St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Originally published in the 1940s, George Washington's World is one of the "World of" books by historical writer Genevieve Foster. (Other titles include Augustus Caesar's World, and The World of Columbus and Sons.)
I'm a huge fan of Foster's writing, and her horizontal approach to history (viewing the events of a period of time through the life of one of its most significant personages).
Most Americans immediately think of the Revolutionary War when they hear George Washington's name, and the genius of Foster's method is that when you've finished this book, you'll likely associate his name with several other historical happenings. By linking events in world history with the six categories that she has divided Washington's life into (boy, soldier, farmer, commander of the Continental forces during the American Revolution, mere citizen, and first president of the United States), she has given students of history several "pegs" on which to hang new (or previously miscategorized) information.
If there is anything that I would caution someone about with regards to this book, it's the sheer amount of information. It's a lot to digest (345 pages). But the wonderfully illustrated two-page spreads that Foster has sprinkled throughout the book do a great job of serving both as a review of what has been learned and a visual aid in remembering it. (There are several maps and other helpful illustrations as well).
The Beautiful Feet website recommends this book for 4th graders and up. In my house, they're most suitable for middle schoolers. The amount of history contained in one of these volumes is sizeable, but the clear, concise writing makes it easily understandable. Foster's writing has what I consider one of the best qualities in historical narrative: objective presentation without sanitization from opinion. Really teaching history, in my mind, involves asking seemingly unanswerable questions--questions like whether or not Benjamin Banneker convinced Thomas Jefferson that blacks were equal to whites or if Jefferson could even allow himself to be convinced, at all. Foster does that, and more.
The topics touched on in George Washington's World are big, as big as history itself. If you choose to delve deeper into American or world history, this will serve as an excellent starting point, but I also think that it is quite sufficient on its own, as a thumbnail sketch of history during the 18th century.
History is a story, and Genevieve Foster tells it well.