George Washington's Socks

by Elvira Woodruff

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George Washington’s Socks is the story of a group of kids who take a backyard camping trip and end up traveling through time to a critical point in the American Revolutionary War.

As the story begins, ten-year-old Matt Carlton is looking forward to the first meeting of an adventure club he is starting with his friends. Every month, the boys will camp out and read a story from a book called Great Adventures in History. He is in a hurry to leave, but his mom and dad refuse to let him go until he finishes the peas on his dinner plate. When his parents are not looking, he scoops the hated vegetables into the sugar bowl. Unfortunately, his seven-year-old sister, Katie, sees him do this. In order to prevent her from tattling, he invites her to come along on the campout.

Matt’s friends Tony, Q, and Hooter belong to the adventure club with him. They pitch a tent in Tony’s backyard, light a campfire with Tony’s dad’s help, and begin their meeting. Matt reads aloud from Great Adventures in History, sharing a story from the Revolutionary War. In it, George Washington and his men cross the Delaware river in icy winter weather in order to take control of the city of Trenton in a surprise attack.

At the beginning of the club meeting, Matt tells Katie to stay in the tent, but she complains loudly. Eventually, at the insistence of Hooter and Tony, he lets her out. Matt warns them that they will be sorry, but Hooter, an unusually kind-hearted boy, and Tony, who knows what it is like to be left out because he is very small, stand by their decision.

As soon as Katie emerges from the tent, she says, “When do we go on the adventure?” Embarrassed, Matt tells Katie that the campout and story are the adventure. Katie is clearly disappointed, and suddenly Matt feels that the backyard campout is too tame. He makes a snap decision to take a hike to a nearby lake, and he convinces the others to come along.

On the way to the lake, Tony tells everyone about the legend of Lake Levart, which he heard from his grandfather. Some people believe that on nights with a three-quarter moon, an enchanted rowboat appears on the lake and takes people away on mysterious adventures. According to Tony’s grandfather, many of these travelers never return.

Tony’s story makes everyone feel scared, especially when they realize that a three-quarter moon is shining in the sky tonight. This feeling intensifies when Matt notices that Katie is missing. He and his friends rush around looking for her. Eventually they find her standing at the water’s edge, smiling oddly, as a rowboat mysteriously moves toward her through the water. Matt and the other boys run to rescue her, but as they approach the rowboat, it magically makes all their fear disappear. Enchanted, they climb into the boat and row to the center of the lake.

The boat trembles, and a mist surrounds it—and suddenly the members of the adventure club find themselves on an icy river in a snowstorm. In the confusion, Katie falls out of the boat. Matt calls for her in a panic, afraid that she has drowned. At the same time, Q and Tony find a strange inscription on the boat. It says, “Emit Levart.”

Soon, to Matt’s great relief, Katie is rescued from the icy river by a tall, commanding man who wraps her in his cloak. He speaks in odd, old-fashioned language and accuses the kids of attempting to spy on the...

(This entire section contains 1665 words.)

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Continental Army. At first they all think he is crazy, but they see that he is accompanied by a group of soldiers armed with muskets—old-fashioned guns they recognize from pictures in their school history book. Somehow they have traveled through time and space to the Delaware River in 1776, and now they are standing face to face with General George Washington, who is on his way to fight the battle of Trenton.

General Washington brings the kids ashore with his army, but he commands one of his soldiers to take them back across the river to stay in safety on a local farm through the upcoming battle. After the General leaves, Matt realizes that Katie is still wrapped in his cloak. Being well acquainted with the history of the battle of Trenton, Matt knows that the General and his men still have to march nine miles through stormy weather to make their surprise attack. Matt runs alone to return the cloak so that General Washington will stay warm during the journey.

Shortly after Matt returns the cloak, one of the army officers mistakes him for a soldier, gives him a musket, and sets him on the march. Afraid that if he runs away he may be mistaken for a spy, Matt reluctantly joins the men. During the night he befriends a teenage soldier, Israel, who offers to trade his shirt for one of Matt’s high-top sneakers. Seeing that Israel is shoeless and has an infected wound on his foot, Matt gives him the sneaker and asks for nothing in return.

In his conversation with Matt, Israel explains that he joined the Continental Army for money, paid to take a rich man’s place. He signed up only because he needed to support his younger brothers and sisters, not because he cares one way or another about the outcome of the war. Then the officers order everyone to walk, and Matt takes the longest, coldest hike of his life—in just the one shoe. During the journey, Israel collapses in pain and fatigue. Matt stays by his side through the night, telling stories of his twentieth-century home.

The next morning, a farmer named Mr. Hornbee wakes Matt, who is appalled to realize that Israel has died of infection and exposure. Mr. Hornbee takes Matt home and gives him a warm bed to sleep in. Several hours later Matt wakes up, eats breakfast, and attempts to explain to Mr. and Mrs. Hornbee that he is a time traveler. The couple concludes that Matt is insane. Mrs. Hornbee, who objects to having Matt in the house because she is afraid the British will punish her family, insists on sending him away. Mr. Hornbee puts Matt on the back of a mule, Blackjack, and sends him down a path toward the river.

Matt and Blackjack make their way through the forest until they hear strange noises that turn out to be a group of Indian boys. To Matt’s surprise, the Indians are accompanied by Hooter and Tony, who explain that Katie and Q have been kidnapped by Hessians. This terrifies Matt, who knows that Hessians were hired and widely feared soldiers from Germany who fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War. Using hand signals and bribes, Matt manages to convince the Indian boys to lead him, Hooter, and Tony to the Hessians’ camp.

At the camp, Matt and his friends attempt to rescue Katie and Q but get themselves caught instead. One the soldiers, a young man named Gustav, lines the kids up and makes them walk along a trail. He is surprisingly friendly, allowing Hooter to doctor him with a Band-aid when he gets cut, and also rescuing Katie when she gets caught on some ice. Just when Matt is beginning to decide that Gustav is a regular guy—not a bloodthirsty enemy—Gustav gets shot and killed by a passing continental soldier.

When the members of the continental army see that Matt and his friends are upset at Gustav’s death, they conclude that the kids are British spies. However, General George Washington soon arrives, and he remembers Matt from the night before. He tells everyone that the kids are patriots, and he gives his spare pair of socks to Katie, whose feet are wet from her adventure on the ice. Q, a brainy kid who likes to collect odd objects, tells her she should frame them, but she puts them on her feet instead.

Not long after this, Katie finds the “Emit Levart” rowboat. The kids see this inscription reflected in a puddle, and they realize that it says “Time Travel” backwards. They do not know exactly how the boat works, but they climb in hoping it will take them home—or at least to a warmer and safer place. The boat rattles and shakes, and soon they are back on Lake Levart. From the water they can see Tony’s house, and their tent as well, so they know that they have returned on the same night they left.

The kids row to shore and hide the rowboat in the bushes. They discuss their adventure and decide that they would all be in terrible trouble if their parents found out about it. Because of this, everyone promises to keep quiet about what has happened. Matt suggests hiding George Washington’s socks with the boat, but Q objects. He asks to take them home and promises that his mother will never find out where they came from. Katie points out that the socks belong to her. Q begs her to let him have them, and she agrees, provided he pay her a bag of marshmallows for them.

The next night at dinner, Katie breaks her promise of silence and tells her parents all about the adventure on the lake. Matt cringes, sure he will get in trouble, but his parents assume that Katie is relating imaginary stories instead of real ones. Matt’s dad seems to approve of the whole adventure and says that he is proud of his son for including his sister on the outing. Just as he finishes a speech about how Matt is becoming a mature and responsible young man, he reaches for the sugar bowl—where the peas from last night’s dinner are still hidden.