Monday, August 13, 2018

Action Presidents: George Washington! by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavry

I've read a lot of of fiction/nonfiction blends recently, but I always have an uneasy feeling that they mix up fiction and nonfiction too much to really be a good choice for middle grade readers. I feel much more confident in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales; when he adds in fictional elements (like the armies of World War I being different types of animals) it's easy to tell the real story from the fictional add-on.

So I was thrilled to discover an equally excellent graphic history series that promises to be both fun and informative. The narrator of this story, seen only briefly at the beginning and ending, is Noah the Historkey, pardoned from Thanksgiving on the condition that he tells the true story of USA history. Through Noah, the author discusses how legends grew up around the founding of the United States, especially the early leaders, and promises to introduce readers to the real George Washington, ACTION PRESIDENT!

This biography of George Washington starts with his youth, involvement in the French-Indian wars (one might say he kind of started them), reluctant appointment to lead the Continental armies, and even more reluctant appointment to president. Along the way, the creators show us a real portrait of the president, warts and all. His involvement in slavery, the lack of rights for women, his military failures and personal foibles. They also introduce readers to the wider world of the colonies; the initial struggles of the young country, the prejudice and oppression faced by Native Americans and African-Americans, and the tragedies and complex history of both sides of the American Revolution. The good, bad, and the ugly are all shown, including plenty of jokes, caricatures, and snarky humor.

The art is black and white with sharp angles and bulging cartoon eyes. Lots of action and movement keeps it from becoming just more talking heads while the text is packed in densely around and in the panels. I've included a sample panel from the beginning, showing Noah the Historkey.

Verdict: This new series promises to fly off the shelves, both for kids who are interested in history and those who love comics. More presidents are coming soon and I can't wait to read them!

ISBN: 9780062394057; Published February 2018 by Harpercollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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