Editorial Review

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Cover: The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon

“The problem: people who see George Washington’s inaccurate image on their currency perceive him as stuffy and boring. The mission: remedy this misconception with three accurate, life-size models of G.W. as a nineteen-year-old surveyor, a forty-five-year-old general, and a fifty-seven-year-old president. The obstacle: The Mount Vernon estate is bound by law to prohibit anyone from disturbing G.W.‘s remains, even for scientific study. Fortunately, eighteenth-century sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon left today’s creative team a critical legacy from which to start—a clay bust, a life mask, and a life-sized marble statue that were highly regarded by contemporaries for their accuracy. With the aid of digital scanners and computer imaging, Houdon’s artifacts could be safely examined and their meticulous measurements translated to capture G.W. at age fifty-three, from which point scientists and artists could adjust his age forward and backward. McClafferty alternates historical and technical chapters to first set the scene for each pivotal moment in G.W.‘s career and to establish his probable frame of mind; then to describe how artists, costumers, wigmakers, and even taxidermists join efforts to make a wax figure that conveys a vital man rather than a revered icon. Readers will delight in juggling the myriad considerations that go into making the models—from the graphite stains on the young surveyor’s hand, to the graying hairs and thinning eyebrows of middle age, to the jawline shortened over time by tooth loss. This title employs the story-behind-the-story approach that made Sally Walker’s Secrets of a Civil War Submarine (BCCB 6/05) such a delight, and many readers inclined to give history books a cool reception will find themselves drawn by the creative process in operation here. Color photographs document the model making, and a timeline of Washington’s life, a thematic bibliography, a list for further reading, and an index are included.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon
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