Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking life of George Washington Carver

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking life of George Washington Carver

Cheryl Harness
For ages 10 and up
National Geographic, 2008   ISBN: 1426301960

From the moment that he could talk, George asked questions. He wanted to know things, and to understand the world around him. As he grew older, George wanted to go to school and to learn, but he lived in a world where the children of former slaves – which is what he was – did not have many opportunities to get an education. George did not let this state of affairs stop him. When he was still very much a child he left the only home he knew to go to school in another town.

For many years after this first move, George worked and went to school. He washed clothes, clerked in an office, and did many other jobs to pay for his expenses. Racism of one form or another often thwarted his efforts to move forward, but in the fall of 1890, George was finally able to go to college. A new life had begun for the young man, and his journey would take him to extraordinary places in the company of remarkable people.

What makes this title so remarkable is that Cheryl Harness not only gives her readers a comprehensive look at George Washington Carver’s life, but she also gives her readers a picture of what was going on in the world during his lifetime. George’s life is therefore given a context that is both fascinating and illuminating. It is clear that Harness had great respect for George Washington Carver, but this does not stop her for being honest about his shortcomings. We see George as he really was, a man who loved to think, to tinker, and to invent, but he was also a man who did not always have the patience to follow through with scientific methods.

Wonderfully written in an often amusing and very conversational style, this is a biography that readers will have a hard time putting down.