Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

First in Their Hearts: A Biography of George Washington is divided into eleven chapters, each focusing on a major period of Washington’s life. Although Thomas J. Fleming provides an overall narrative detailing Washington’s childhood through his presidency, he focuses on Washington’s personality and heroic qualities rather than on specific historical events. Throughout the book, Fleming includes excerpts from journal entries and letters, thus allowing Washington and his contemporaries to describe events as they saw them. The book also contains an index and bibliography of other books about Washington, as well as a number of engravings or photographs of paintings, mostly of Washington and people he knew.

In keeping with his interest in Washington as an individual, Fleming begins by describing how Washington fought the elements as he explored the Allegheny River in 1753, subsequently leading a seven-member expedition over five hundred miles of forest to deliver a message to a French commander. Only after demonstrating his subject’s heroism does Fleming flash back to Washington’s childhood. He then discusses the events and people that shaped Washington’s life: his father, who died when he was only eleven; his domineering mother, Mary Ball; and his older half brother, Lawrence, who tried to help educate him. As a youth, Washington was more comfortable surveying the wilderness than socializing at the family home at Mount Vernon. Fleming...

(The entire section is 492 words.)