With her whimsical and informative illustrations and timelines Foster has magnificently captured a remarkable age and a remarkable man. Originally published in 1944, Foster earned her reputation by her masterful display of "horizontal history"—telling the story of world events in the geo-political sphere, while giving as much importance to advances in science, medicine, music, literature, and exploration.
Thus, while Abe Lincoln was a boy romping the woods of Kentucky, Thomas Jefferson was completing his eighth year as president, George III reigned in Great Britain and Napoleon was about to meet his Waterloo. Beethoven and Sir Walter Scott were at the height of their creative powers, while Victor Hugo was staging plays at school. By the time Lincoln was old enough to help his father chop wood, other young boys and girls were being prepared for the future parts they would play.
Harriet Beecher was reading anything she could get her hands on, Charles Darwin was collecting toads, crabs and shells, and the impoverished boy Dickens was working in a shoe blacking factory in London. When Lincoln opened his shop in Salem, David Livingstone was opening up deepest Africa, and thousands of Americans were opening up the West on the Oregon Trail. The spirit of freedom was moving around the globe as the abolitionist movement gained power in the States and serfdom saw its demise in Russia. Technologically the world was bursting with the invention of the telegraph, the railroad and the steamboat.
About the Author:
Genevieve Foster began her career as a commercial artist, illustrator, and advertiser. In the late 1930s it occurred to Foster to write about history in a "horizontal" versus "vertical" fashion, i.e., that national histories should not be taught in isolation from one another. She said that the way history was traditionally taught was "about as dull and unsatisfying, as a play might be, if only one character appeared upon the stage, while the others faintly mumbled their lines in the wings, out of sight of the audience."
She was at the forefront of this new method of historical writing, which viewed history as a cross section of intertwined events and looked at a person in their worldwide historical context. In her books, she integrated global historical events into the telling of a person's life. Her purpose was to make historical figures "alive for children". During her career she wrote 19 nonfiction children's books. Foster traveled extensively and most of her books were translated into 12 languages and were distributed by the U.S. State Department.