1942 Newbery Honor Book
Considered the innovator of "horizontal history," Genevieve Foster became frustrated when her two school-aged children complained about the boring presentation of history in their school textbooks. This frustration led to Foster's first book, George Washington's World (1941).
In her unique approach, Foster weaves a story of the world around her central character; rather than focusing exclusively on geo-political events, as most textbooks do, she includes stories of scientific discovery and invention, music, literature, art, and religion. Her keen intuition for stories will especially delight and amuse youthful readers.
The period measured by the life of George Washington—1732 to 1799 —was one of revolution and change in many parts of the world as Enlightenment thinking took hold in the minds of men.
When George was a young man, Benjamin Franklin was the most well-known American, Louis XV was on the throne of France, and George II was king of England. Father Junipero Serra had just arrived in Mexico to work with the Panes Indians. Mozart and Bach were writing their immortal music and Voltaire warred with his pen against Ignorance, Injustice and Superstition. The young nobleman Lafayette watched the feisty American colonies with fascinated interest as they stood up to Mother England when she sought to tax them unfairly. James Cook was sent by the Royal Society of London to Tahiti where their team of astronomers might observe a total eclipse of the sun and thereby accurately measure the distance between the earth and the sun.
These are just a few of the wonderful narratives explored by Foster in her Newbery Honor Book. Foster's detailed pen and ink drawings are fresh and appealing, and her illustrated timelines give a clear sense of chronology, enriching the engaging text. Foster's telling of the life story of George Washington does justice to the man it celebrates.
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 15 languages and were distributed by the U.S. State Department.
Foster wrote, nearly fifty years ago, that "nothing is more critical, I believe, than that children growing up in these critical explosive days should be given an understanding of American history as a part of the history of the world. Every year this grows more urgent, as increasingly rapid communication integrates world events more closely and the impact of foreign affairs on our own lives becomes more serious and immediate." Her prescient words resonate with perhaps more truth today and her books continue to broaden the perspectives of her readers.