The Many Faces of George Washington

Remaking a Presidential Icon

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

“No picture accurately resembled him in the minute traits of his person . . . there was an expression of his face that no painter had succeeded in taking.”—London’s New Monthly Magazine in 1790

George Washington’s face has been painted, printed, and engraved more than a billion times since his birth in 1732. And yet even in his lifetime, no picture seemed to capture the likeness of the man who is now the most iconic of all our presidents. Worse still, people today often see this founding father as the “old and grumpy” Washington on the dollar bill.

In 2005 a team of historians, scientists, and artisans at Mount Vernon set out to change the image of our first president. They studied paintings and sculptures, pored over Washington’s letters to his tailors and noted other people’s comments about his appearance, even closely examined the many sets of dentures that had been created for Washington. Researchers tapped into skills as diverse as 18th-century leatherworking and cutting-edge computer programming to assemble truer likenesses. Their painstaking research and exacting processes helped create three full-body representations of Washington as he was at key moments in his life. And all along the way, the team gained new insight into a man who was anything but “old and grumpy.” Join award-winning author Carla Killough McClafferty as she unveils the statues of the three Georges and rediscovers the man who became the face of a new nation.

Format Your Price Add
Available at all major wholesalers and distributors. Save 25% off list price on hardcovers and ebooks when you buy direct! Digital purchases will be accessed on Lerner Digital Bookshelf. An account will be created for you after purchase.
Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 6
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Social Studies
Copyright 2011
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 120
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS JNF025190, JNF051000
Dewey 973.4'1092
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Guided Reading Level X
ATOS Reading Level 8.2
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 142624
Accelerated Reader® Points 5.0
Features Awards, Primary source quotations/images, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Carla Killough McClafferty

Carla Killough McClafferty writes nonfiction books for young readers. But writing is not the first career for McClafferty, who is a Radiologic Technologist. Her work as an author began with her debut book, Forgiving God, an inspirational book that deals with the death of her youngest son, Corey. Next, she turned her attention to writing nonfiction for readers in upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Her first three books in this genre were published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux: The Head Bone's Connected to the Neck Bone: The Weird, Wacky and Wonderful X-ray, Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium, and In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry. Her latest book is The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon (Carolrhoda). Her books have been recognized for excellence by the Junior Library Guild, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the CBC, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List, IRA Children's Book Award Winner, a NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, ALA Best Books for Young Adult List, ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, National Council of Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Booklist Top Ten Sci-Tech books, NCTE Orbis Pictus recommended book, an International 2008 Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book, Cooperative Children's Book Council (CCBC) Choices 2009 list, Arkansas's 2008-2009 Charlie May Simon Reading List, and received a starred reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist, and Jewish Book World. McClafferty is a popular speaker for both children and adults. She has presented at a wide variety of local, national, and international venues, providing workshops and keynote addresses at events which include ALA, AASL, NCTE, IRA national and regional SCBWI conferences. She lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

The Many Faces of George Washington

“No picture accurately resembled him in the minute traits of his person . . . there was an expression of his face that no painter had succeeded in taking.”—London’s New Monthly Magazine in 1790 George Washington’s face has been painted,… View available downloads →


  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon, Winner, 2012
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2012
  • Cybils Finalist, Nominated, 2012
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2012
  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon, Winner, 2011
  • SSLI Book Award Honor Book, Commended, 2011
  • School Library Journal Best Book, Winner, 2011


The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“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


“Presenting biographical information as well as exploring Washington’s visual representation, this handsome book finds a unique slant on the first president.” —Booklist

School Library Journal

“The full-color images are excellent throughout and are astounding when showing the wax reconstructions…. A stellar addition to most libraries.” —School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“Enthusiastic prose and informative photographs convey in considerable detail the work on this project by a variety of experts, including sculptors, archaeologists, historians, dentists, painters, taxidermists and more.” —Kirkus Reviews