Young George Washington, long a bête noire of fibbing schoolchildren with his “cannot tell a lie” pieties, is humanized in this comic account of his early years. The opening spread shows George grabbing his powdered wig as he awakens on his seventh birthday, inadequately feted by his family. At one point a peevish George mutters to his half brother Augustine, “Someday, I’ll be the boss of you.” Purists may resist Washington as a moody youngster, but McNamara (author of last year’s charming “Three Little Pigs” knockoff, “The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot”) knows how to win over 6-year-old fans. The only thing they’ll resent is no longer getting his birthday off from school.
LOOKING AT LINCOLN
Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman.
Based on “In Love With A. Lincoln,” an online column Kalman (“Fireboat,” “Next Stop Grand Central”) wrote for The New York Times, this introduction to America’s 16th president will inspire children to a similar state of reverence. Kalman’s text is marvelously tuned to young readers. “One day he was kicked in the head by a mule,” she writes. “Then he woke up and grew up and decided to be a lawyer. (He did like to argue.)” The accompanying paintings alternate between veneration (flags, uniforms, moving portraiture) and whimsy (Lincoln’s favorite vanilla cake), enriching this utterly winning tribute.
THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA
Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks.
By Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.
32 pp. Dial. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 6 to 8)
Once upon a time, a Republican president and a California tree-hugger were united in grand purpose. So goes the story of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir’s 1903 camping trip, told here with towering sequoias, pre-global-warming glaciers and snowstorm. Gerstein, who won a Caldecott for “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” knows how to bring a great man’s feat to picture-book life, and here he captures the men’s vision of natural conservation against the glorious backdrop of what would become part of Yosemite National Park.
WORST OF FRIENDS
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud.
By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day.
32 pp. Dutton. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 6 to 9)
Presidential foibles and feuds are a reliable source of astonished delight for children otherwise taught to revere their founding fathers. Teddy Roosevelt said, for example, that President McKinley “had the backbone of a chocolate éclair.” And frenemies Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — “as different as pickles and ice cream” (unless you’re pregnant) — make an especially colorful pair. Jurmain and Day offer an early-elementary-school account of the Republican/Federalist divide and a story of friendship surmounting ideological differences.