cover image Dear Mr. Washington

Dear Mr. Washington

Lynn Cullen, illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Dial, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3038-0

Imagined letters from the daughter of portrait painter Gilbert Stuart transport readers to the creation of one of the most famous paintings of the first U.S. president. Young Charlotte Stuart begins her first missive to George Washington apologizing for the chaos that she and her brothers instigated trying to get him to smile. “I’m so Sorry for what happened to your hair Ribbon,” Charlotte writes. “James and I did not mean for our Cat to race up your Shoulder.” Lively mixed-media illustrations show the siblings hanging from curtains, tripping over rugs, and hiding under a stern Washington’s coattails (the mayhem echoes similarly rambunctious scenes that Carpenter painted for Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine). Interrupting Cullen’s (Moi and Marie Antoinette) epistolary jaunt are several spreads explaining how not to behave, taken from a book the President reportedly had to copy as a child; humorous vignettes show Washington demonstrating each prohibition, e.g., “Do not Wiggle in the Sight of Others nor Gnaw your nails.” An author’s note includes a copy of the resultant painting and a more factual account of its rendering. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (Jan.)