The President and Me: George Washington and the Magic Hat, by Deborah Kalb/Illustrations by Robert Lunsford, (Feb. 2016, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764351105
Recommended for ages 8-12
Fifth grader Sam is feeling down. He’s a bit of an introvert, and when his best friend, Andrew, seemingly abandoned him to get more involved in sports, he feels more alone than ever. Plus, the most annoying kid in school took the part he wanted in the school play: the role of George Washington! During a trip to Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Sam finds himself drawn to a beat-up old hat in the gift shop, but this is no ordinary hat: it’s a magic hat that sends him off to the 18th century, where he meets George Washington himself! As Sam travels back and forth between the present day and the 18th century, he finds himself witnessing pivotal moments in George Washington’s life, and just possibly, building a friendship with the charismatic leader.
The President and Me is a fun middle grade fantasy adventure. The hat has a personality all its own, which makes for some amusing moments; whether he’s trying to find out what a bus is or what this newfangled century is all about, or blathering on while Sam’s trying to keep him a secret, the hat is a good supporting character for Sam, often encouraging him by showing him a time in George Washington’s history that teaches Sam a lesson he desperately needs – lessons that operate under the guise of history, but carry some pretty great lessons that help Sam learn about himself, too. Black and white illustrations add interest.
Readers will find some interesting history and facts about George Washington in the book, too. Most of us know by now that George didn’t really chop down a cherry tree, let alone confess the fact to his dad, but did you know that Mount Vernon was his brother’s estate first? Or that he wanted to be a sailor before he wanted to be a soldier? The author includes some helpful sources in her acknowledgements; pair that with some resources of your own and give kids a great George Washington or Colonial America bibliography. There are a few questions left unanswered, but you can use those areas as kickoffs to discussions. (What would happen if George Washington were given a LEGO spaceship?)
A light, fun addition to your historical fantasy fiction collections.