Tag Archives: George Washington

Popularity and Good Manners

8 Sep

Fiona had acupuncture on Saturday. This involves 15 minutes of needle application. It looks like a game of Twister with the vet tech & I humoring Fiona and feeding her treats and the vet reaching around to stick the needles where she wants them. Then, Fiona has to lay still for 20 minutes. And I am right there with her. It is quiet in the room and I can hear the conversations of the vets and techs on the other side of the door. The clinic is small. My vet was telling about her daughter’s first week at middle school. It wasn’t awful, but she hasn’t found her place yet. and belonging is so important.

Before leaving to go to the vet, I started reading Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen.


It is Maya’s memoir of her eighth grade year in Brownsville Texas, which sounds like a terrible place to live. She was not popular. She came across a 1950’s guide to popularity by Betty Cornell and decided to follow her advice on an attempt to climb the social ladder. This book is the rests of her social experiment.

Witty and heartbreakingly honest, the strength of this book is Maya’s voice. She tells us the good the bad, the ugly and the successful. Each month, Maya tackles a different area that Betty Cornell wrote about:

September: figure

October: hair

December: skin

You get the idea. Throughout the month we see Maya tackle each topic head on and see where she succeeds and where there is still room for growth.

I have recommended this book to my twin sister and I think any female adult who has made it through middle and high school, as well as any girl going through middle and high school, will enjoy this book. You will laugh and shed some tears. The road to popularity s not always pretty.

If you don’t fit into those two categories, you can still get some good advice here


George Washington’s Rules to Live By: A Good Manners Guide from the Father of Our Country by K. M. Kostyal tackles an older guide: George Washington’s Rules of Civility. Hand-copied when Washington was 16, the Rule lay out maxims for living a good life. Now, K. M. Kostyal has translated the to the modern day and added humorous illustrations that allow kids today to learn about manners and history simultaneously.

Both books make interesting reading.

The Marquis de Lafayette

12 Dec

I’ve always been interested in  the Marquis de Lafayette, a french aristocrat who fought in the American Revolutionary War, sided with the forces of change in the French Revolution, only to have them turn on him. he spent years in prison, separated from his family.  His real name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, and I found it ridiculously long & cool.  A few years ago, I read a Lafayette by Harlow G. Unger,


a biography for adults. Two years ago we got Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman. It won a Sibert honor award.


This  excellent book is definitely for middle and upper grades. fortunately, we now have a book for a younger audience, Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette written by Selene Castrovilla and illustrated by Drazen Kozjan.


The book opens in 1777 with the young Marquis, a fervent supporter of the American struggle against Great Britain, about to approach General George Washington. From there it shows how they grow to become very close friends, despite the age difference. The book is full of factual detail  and peppered with quotes from Lafayette. Back matter contains more details of their friendship, timelines for both Washington and Lafayette,a bibliography  and the final page features a pair of portraits of the two men that hang in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Master George

26 Apr

My image of 18th & 19th century American slavery is rooted in Roots, the 1977 TV miniseries based on Alex Haley’s novel. Marfé Ferguson Delano has a new book out, Master George’s People, that focuses on the first president’s slaves and George Washington’s own reflections on slavery.


It’s  a crazy but true fact that George Washington became a slave owner at age 11. That’s just a year older than the kids I teach.  At that age, however, his mother “managed” them  on George’s behalf. This book is a fascinating look at particular individuals, enslaved at Mount Vernon and I think this really adds to my knowledge as well as the knowledge of the young readers the book is written for. The author deftly shows, through Washington’s own words, how he struggled with the concept of slavery and the reality of his own situation.

Peppered with real and re-enacted photos, the book has a reflection of the author’s journey in writing the book, a chronology , a bibliography, list of Sources and an index. It is an interesting and useful addition to the literature for kids about Washington.

George Washington: Renaissance Man – President’s Day Books #4

15 Feb

Presidents get pigeon-holed by their “legacy”  and we sometimes forget they had lives before, and even after.

Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas goes beyond the stereotypes we feed children about Washington.


Lynne Johnson’s detailed illustrations enhance the well researched text shows how Washington’s desire to create a self-sufficient farm mirrored the effort to create a new nation. Thomas includes excerpts for Washington’s letters and diaries to illustrate his thoughts on everything from compost and lambing to his thoughts on slavery.  It includes a timeline and bibliography. It is an excellent resource for teaching kids that presidents are real people and have real life problems to consider.

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