The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon by Carla Killough McClafferty is much more than a biography of George Washington, it is about literally rebuilding a person from historical information. It has been nominated for a 2011 Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category.
Sometimes it pays to reread a book. The first time I “read” this one I admit I was distracted. I skimmed some pages. I set it aside. Hey, who doesn’t know about George Washington? Then my son picked it up an read it cover to cover. From then on, all I heard about was George Washington this, and George Washington that, and George Washington’s teeth… So, I picked it up again. This time I really appreciated what The Many Faces of George Washington is about.
First, once you realize that by training Carla Killough McClafferty is a radiologic technologist who is interested in history, you know this isn’t going to be the standard biography. At the heart of this book is the story of making three life-sized figures of George Washington at ages nineteen, forty-five and fifty-seven for the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.
How do you make realistic life-sized models without access to the person’s skull or photographs? You assemble a team of forensic anthropologists, textile artists, taxidermists, dentists and historians, and let the experts piece together the most complete portrait of the man possible, right down to the age spots on his hands.
The experts went after every detail they could. Washington’s horse was recreated using taxidermy techniques. They used Washington’s surviving dentures to recreate his jaw shape. Someone who was near Washington’s size wore the new breeches while horseback riding to give them an authentic look. Amazing!
The backmatter of the book includes plenty of ways to delve into Washington’s life further, such as a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
The Many Faces of George Washington is an unusual combination, sure to enthuse budding historians and forensic anthropologists alike.
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
School & Library Binding: 120 pages
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (April 2011)
Provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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This week’s post is at Practically Paradise.