Written by George Foreman and Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Whitney Martin
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005
“Good morning, George.”
What made this author famous? George Foreman is a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, Olympic Gold medalist, ordained minister and spokesman for the George Foreman Grill.
George comes downstairs for breakfast and says hello to his four brothers, all named George. His mother reminds them that it’s their father’s birthday and asks for their help with the party preparation. So George vacuums, George decorates, George makes a cake and George takes out the trash while Baby George sleeps. A deliveryman brings a package and Big George runs to the door, thinking it’s for him, but it turns out to be diapers for Baby George. Everyone goes back to work. A phone call is passed between all the Georges before they realize it’s a wrong number. Another deliveryman shows up with a box for George, but this time it’s for George the dog. George asks the deliveryman to check for another box and he finds one. Big George opens it and finds his gift. It’s a bird and he names it George. They clean up again and at the party, the boys remind their dad that if he ever needs help, he should just let George do it.
Anyone who didn’t know better would read this book and complain that it’s too silly, since no one would ever give five sons the same name. Of course, boxing champion George Foreman did exactly that, which turns this silly story into a good-natured comical riff on life at the Foreman house and perhaps a laugh at his own expense. Beyond the silly back and forth between the Georges, there are a lot of other funny moments in this story. Whenever the Georges get back to work, it seems one of them is always undoing or redoing something the other has done (the chairs go up and down the stairs a couple of times and I think Baby George gets bathed three times). And you get the idea that, although it seems pretty crazy to imagine a house with six Georges, it seems like they manage it fairly well for the most part.
The illustrations, from Whitney Martin, match the comic tone of the story. The watercolor artwork features characters that seemed to pop right out of an old Saturday morning cartoon show, with mostly minimal backgrounds. I wasn’t surprised at all to see that he has worked in animation for Disney and Fox studios. To add to the fun, the walls of the Foreman house are populated with pictures of other famous Georges, including George Washington, George Orwell and George Harrison. Over all of the silliness, there is a real sense of a close and happy family who know how to work well together and take care of each other and that’s always a nice thing to see.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that every family has its challenges, but when everyone pitches in and cares about each other, there’s a way to make it work.