Sunday, September 23, 2012

George Washington and the General's Dog by Frank Murphy

George Washington and the General's Dog by Frank Murphy, illustrated by Richard Walz

Rating: 5 stars

Today Lorelei, Ben, Kiefer and I met my family at Mount Vernon, George Washinton's estate.  I've lived in Northern Virginia for ten years (the Army brat in me is shocked at being anywhere for this long) but this was my first trip there.

During the longish drive there, I quizzed the kids on what they knew about George Washington.  Here's what Ben (nearly 4) and Lorelei (5) knew:

  • He was our first President.
  • He chose not to be a king.
  • He was the only President not to live in the White House.
  • He lived in New York City.
  • He admitted to chopping down a cherry tree.
  • He was a soldier, a general, like Grand-Daddy.
  • He loved animals, but especially loved dogs.
  • His favorite dog was named Sweetlips.

I was proud of myself and impressed at their memory.  Once again, I'm amazed at how reading is entertainment and education all wrapped up together.  There are so many times when I'm floored by how much Lorelei has soaked up from books, especially the Magic School Bus series.  She is one smart cookie.

This book is a must-read for EVERYONE!  It is such a good tale about one of the most important characters in our country's history.  But it's also a good story of an act of kindness.  There is so much to know about Washington that I feel utterly unqualified to say much, but I will say that he reminds me that individuals matter.  One single man (or woman) can make such a difference in the course of history, in the lives of so many.  I want my kids to know more about him; this book is a perfect introduction.

The story starts off simply enough, and grabs any kid who likes any animal: Washington was an animal-lover, but dogs were his favorite.  (Would I like him as much if he was a cat-lover?  Probably not!)  He had a pack of dogs that amused him and annoyed Martha.  When he went away to fight in the Revolutionary War, he brought along his favorite dog, Sweetlips.  After the Battle of Germantown in 1777, a terrier was found wandering the fields.  Some soldiers in Washington's camp found him and realized that the dog belonged to the enemy, General Howe.  Washington's soldiers suggested he keep the dog as some sort of trophy for winning the battle, but Washington wouldn't hear of it.  A man and his dog must be kept together.

So, under a white flag of truce, Washington's aide returned the dog to Howe.

There are so many lessons in here that I don't know where to start.  I was really moved by the story the first time I read it, proud of our first President for such a simple and decent act.  My kids have such a hard time with losing and are so proud of themselves for winning--though the word "gloat" isn't in their vocabularies, they do it rather well.  But here's a tale of a winner who doesn't gloat, who recognizes the basic needs of his enemy and does the right thing.

I just love the story.  As soon as I read it I bought it and mailed it to my sister for her brood to have--my sister has framed pictures of George and Martha "as every American should have!"--so I knew she had to have it on her shelf.  Today, walking around the beautiful fields of Mount Vernon, appreciating the view on a gorgeous first day of fall, as our seven (seven!) collective kids ran around us, she and I talked about this book and how great an introduction it is to such an important figure.

We'll be back to Mount Vernon to add to the small but solid understanding Lorelei and Ben (and, soon enough, Kiefer!) have about one very important man.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, can i ask you something? I’m looking for children books with “scary” animal illustrations like the big bad wolf (or a fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in Chicken Little) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Could be any other animal as well. Have you seen any book of this sort? Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    Great blog, by the way!