Dear Mr. Washington

Written by Lynn Cullen Nancy Carpenter (illus.)
Review by Kristen Hannum

Written and illustrated with a 5- to 8-year-old audience in mind, Dear Mr. Washington is rollicking fun for the grown-ups involved as well. It’s the story of artist Gilbert Stuart’s boisterous children getting in the way of his painting his most famous portrait: the one of George Washington that we see every time we handle a dollar bill. Charlotte, as Stuart’s oldest child, writes Washington apologies, telling him that they won’t be a problem again, that they’ve learned the basics of the era’s etiquette… like don’t pick fleas off people. Stuart (1755-1828) really did produce dozens of paintings of Washington, and what seems like every other leading figure in early American history too: more than a thousand, including the first six presidents. Carpenter’s illustrations are so detailed that there are new discoveries (or old, favorite ones) to be found with each reading. Best of all, the first president’s face is so deliciously sour in contrast to the children’s high spirits – and their father so aghast – that each page has layers of humor.