Wednesday, April 25, 2018





 


George Washington: His Legacy of Faith, Character, and Courage.  By Demi, Ignatius Press, 2018.


While many of the books reviewed on this website are directed towards adults seeking to expand and better understand their faith, this review will discuss a recently published book aimed at shaping the spirituality and character of young people.  In this illustrated children’s book, the prolific author and artist Demi has created a short biography of George Washington.  Special focus is placed on Washington’s leadership skills, moral views, and sense of honor, but Demi places Washington’s religious faith at the heart of this book.


The book is mostly full of imagery, consisting of Demi’s pictures, with about a paragraph of informative text on each page, providing insight on some aspect of history.  George Washington opens with the following statement:

 

“The inspiring Legacy of George Washington is one of faith, character, and courage.  It is visible through the many events told in this book.  It began even before he was born, with his ancestors who had been involved in key moments in British history.  George Washington certainly learned from their stories, as we can learn from his.” 


The first several pages cover centuries of history, focusing on Washington’s ancestors and the inspirational ways that several prominent members of his family tree shaped the character and values of their descendant.  Soon, the book moves into Washington’s own career, highlighting certain incidents that shaped the future president’s career.  Heavy stress is placed on religious and spiritual points.  Though not a Catholic himself, Washington was inspired by a book on moral behavior written by Jesuit priest when he was a young teenager.  Washington also prayed frequently, and once was inspired a miraculous vision– the details of which serve as a pivotal moment in this mini-biography.


Interestingly, Demi’s book is one of the latest entries in a developing paradigm shift in the study of the religious views of the Founding Fathers.  For generations, many biographers minimized the role that religion played in their worldviews and personal lives, stressing that most (though not all) of the Founding Fathers had a largely Deist and skeptical perspective, and therefore had no real interest in religious matters.  This was by no means a universal characterization, but it is still a prominently held belief in many historical circles.


In a first for Catholic Book Reviews Monthly, Demi has provided a brief interview regarding the book:



CHAN.  How did you get the idea to write this children's book about Washington?


DEMI.  I was inspired to write George Washington when I read of his celestial vision at Valley Forge, first published in The National Tribune, Volume 4, No. 12, December 1880 and preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.


CHAN. What sources did you use when researching this book?


DEMI. My sources were every picture and book I could find on George Washington. Some of my favorite books are:


Washington’s Prayers, Norristown, PA. Published for the Benefit of the           Washington Memorial Chapel, 1907.


George Washington, The Christian, William J. Johnson, Arlington, Texas, Christian Liberty Press, 1919.


The Religious Opinions of Washington, E.C. McGuire, ed., N.Y: Harper Brothers, 1836.


The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, Boston, Ferdinand Andrews Publisher, 1838.


A Concise History of the American Republic, Samuel Eliot Morison, New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.


CHAN.  What lessons/morals would you like young children to learn from this book?


DEMI.  Moral lessons that young children could learn from this book would be to follow in the footsteps of George himself: At the age of 13 George began copying and memorizing The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, written by French Jesuit priests. These rules were meant to train young men to serve God and neighbor. They helped form his sense of right and wrong, his strong faith, and his upright nature. Besides morality, faith and character, they also developed his marvelous qualities of patience, humility, giving, discipline, vigor, meditation and wisdom.


CHAN. Is there anything about Washington that you wanted to include but didn't for any reason?


DEMI.  I would have loved to include ALL of George Washington’s prayers written by himself for each day of the week; for mornings and evenings. God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ was the Light of his life.


We simply didn’t have space for them all in this book.


CHAN. What did you learn about Washington's spiritual life as you researched and wrote this book?


DEMI.  I learned about George Washington’s powerful transcendental nature as I researched his spiritual life


George Washington is an excellent introduction for young children to learn about the Founding Father.  Adults may discover certain details about the man’s life that they were previously unaware of, and they may therefore be inspired to track down other studies of Washington from the list mentioned earlier.  Parents and children will find George Washington a useful tool to help inspire a love of history, and the man depicted in Demi’s book may well serve as a model template for behavior and character for many kids.


­–Chris Chan