(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In his introduction, Fleming explains that First in Their Hearts is a response to his own childhood curiosity about Washington, particularly his desire to know the individual behind the history lessons and legends. Because of widely varying opinions about Washington, Fleming believed that the only way to approach his subject was through reading the journals and letters of Washington and his contemporaries. Through them, the real Washington, one with both strengths and weaknesses emerged. Ultimately, Fleming managed to create a very vivid and personal portrait of Washington in this relatively short biography, one that does not put him on a pedestal or propound the many myths about him that have developed over the years.

Fleming creates a biography that will appeal to young adults, not only because he humanizes Washington but also because he emphasizes major episodes from Washington’s life without getting bogged down in unnecessary historical detail. For example, the other major figures of the revolutionary war are mentioned rarely, if at all, and Fleming skips many of the major battles of the war entirely. Similarly, Washington’s election to the presidency is presented in only a few brief lines. While he does not sidestep controversial aspects of Washington’s life—such as his youthful love for Sally Fairfax, his best friend’s wife, and public dissatisfaction with some of his presidential policies—Fleming carefully highlights episodes...

(The entire section is 553 words.)