Book Review: George vs. George

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Ages 9-12

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It is the mark of a good author to take a familiar subject and make it seem new again. This is what Rosalyn Schanzer has done with the American Revolutionary War in her new book, George vs. George.

Schanzer, an accomplished expert on the subject, has added enough new material and worked hard enough to make the illustrations (all of which she did as well) look authentic enough that the result is something wonderful to read and educating for even the most knowledgeable reader.

The idea is one that is slowing gaining credence in teaching circles these days: Examine one issue from both sides. In this case, the issue is the Revolutionary War. American history books are full of the details from the American point of view; rarely do American history students read about what life and the war was like from the British point of view. The title describes a juxtaposition of words and deeds of George Washington and King George III, but the actions and utterances of other famous and not-so-famous Americans and Britons are included as well. The result is an incredibly well-detailed examination of the war and its consequences and events.

Among the historically significant gems that Schanzer includes are these:

  • The British Empire at the time of the events that ended in the American Revolutionary War included 31 colonies across the globe.
  • About 90 percent of the American colonists lived in the countryside, not in large cities.
  • The idea of "no taxation without representation" was not invented by Americans: It was part of English law and had been since the Middle Ages.
  • Most of the Native Americans living in America fought for Great Britain, mainly because they feared that the Americans would take away their land if left to their own authority.
  • Some historians estimate that by the time the war ended, as many as one-quarter of all soldiers in the Continental Army were African-American (free or not).
  • The daring crossing of the Delaware River and subsequent smashing of the Hessian forces at Trenton were motivated by the fact that just one week later, half of the men then serving in the Continental Army were due to end their enlistments and return home.
  • On the homefront, Loyalists looted and burned houses belonging to pro-American citizens; the same was true in the reverse.
  • Women often traveled with their husband soldiers. Martha Washington spent eight winters with her husband, George.
  • Despite famous paintings to the contrary, Washington did not accept Cornwallis's sword at Yorktown. The exchange took place between the second-in-command on both sides.

The book doesn't end with the war's end. The author includes a sort-of epilogue explaining what happened to each George and his country once the two countries were separated. And as with the rest of the book, this epilogue does a superb job of setting the scene and filling in details to an already familiar set of events.

All in all, this National Geographic is definitely worth its price. It is a well-written, well-researched, well-illustrated gem of a book, making it a perfect study guide for readers of all ages.

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