George Washington Carver: An Innovative Life
Author: Elizabeth MacLeod
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2006
ISBN: 1553379063
Age Levels: 8-12

Book Review

It’s hard to believe that something as small as a peanut can change a person’s life. But peanuts certainly altered the career of George Washington Carver. He went from being a little-known professor to a world-famous peanut scientist. George created more than 325 products from peanuts, including substitutes for rubber, meat and wood stains.
The son of slaves, George was born in Missouri near the end of the Civil War. When slave raiders kidnapped George and his mother, the owner of the farm, Moses Carver, hired someone to rescue the two. Only George was returned. An orphan, he was raised by Moses Carver and his wife, Sue. From an early age George loved observing nature and working with plants. He also loved learning. "My soul," he once wrote, "thirsted for education."

When George was about 21 he took up homesteading in Kansas. After three years of this backbreaking work, he left Kansas and ended up attending Iowa State College studying botany. There he earned a master’s degree. When Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute offered him a job as a professor of agriculture, George was on the move once again.

During his more than forty years at Tuskegee, George taught as well as invented products—primarily from peanuts. Interestingly:
George never got rich from his new products. He didn’t think it was right to apply for patents (documents that give inventors legal rights to their inventions). George believed discoveries were freely provided by God, so he felt it was wrong to make money from them.
Although a brilliant scientist and beloved teacher, George’s greatest accomplishment was helping poor farmers in the South improve their agricultural practices.

MacLeod does a marvelous job of presenting the life, beliefs, and thoughts of George Washington Carver in the context of the times. Readers learn that life was difficult for African Americans in post-Civil War society. Racial prejudice was the norm. However, there were kind-hearted people, both black and white, who saw potential in the young George and offered their support.

The design of the book is both appealing and engaging. Period photographs and illustrations abound, making this a vivid, visual treat.

Appended is a timeline of George’s life, as well as an index.

Classroom Uses: This title definitely deserves a place on your classroom or library shelves. It is perfect for browsing or research.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2006 Education Oasis

About the Author

Elizabeth MacLeod was born in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. She has written a number of books for children, including Harry Houdini: A Magical Life. She lives in Toronto.