Textbook or Historical Fiction? The Genevieve Foster Collection

Genevieve Foster was a children’s author and amateur historian who wrote through the forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies.  Her “Genevieve Foster Collection” is her most famous work, and her most intriguing.  The books included in the collection are George Washington’s World, Abraham Lincoln’s World, Augustus Caesar’s World, The World of Captain John Smith, The World of Columbus and Sons, and The World of William Penn.  

A fascinating mixture – one part textbook and one part fiction – the collection is written in the third person from the point of view of various historical persons all around the globe living during the lifetime of the title character.  

The books are divided into segments. For instance in George Washington’s World, the sections are:

  1. When George Washington was a Child
  2. When George Washinton was a Soldier
  3. When Geroge Washington was a Farmer
  4. When George Washington was a General
  5. When George Washinton was a Citizen
  6. When George Washington was President

The book covers the major historical events and figures that ran through Washington’s lifetime and draws connections and parallels between them. Some subjects are only brushed over, where more main events, including the timeline of the book’s namesake, are featured repeatedly.  

In terms of an educational viewpoint, the books are a fantastic idea. They show, much better than any textbook, the way events and historical figures are connected and demonstrate that history is a story, a stream of events rather than a never ending trail of unrelated incidents.  

The books also personalize historical figures in a way that makes them more relatable to readers.  For instance, Augustus Caesar’s World starts off with a scene of young Octavius (later to become Augustus Caesar) stargazing with his friends.  It’s a fictionalized account of Octavias showing him as a real person not just a colossus of history.  

With this balance between fact and fiction some historic accuracy is undoubtedly lost but the main facts and dates of the era are accurate and the creative elements are informed by historical knowledge of attitudes and customs of the times. In this way, historical figures are shown to be real, tangible people, with some of the same problems all everyday people face.

The Genevieve Foster Books unlock history in a way that is interesting, fascinating, and very informative, not only picking up on main events but also on some lesser-known peoples, places, and incidents that are harder to find in mainstream textbooks. Each book is also filled with regular drawings and diagrams to help bring the content to life. In this way, the Genevieve Foster collection creates an avenue for learning history not often considered, but in my opinion, just as educational and much more engaging than the conventional textbook.

The Genevieve Foster Collection is a fantastic addition to any homeschool library and the perfect gift for any child who is a budding history lover.

  • Ages: 8 – 99
  • Awards: Four time Newbery Runner-Up
  • Pages: 300 – 400 pages
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

The Collection

By Malachi L. Myers