The next Cybils nonfiction finalist I read is The Many Faces of George Washington, by Carla McClafferty. This oversized book looks at the study follows two stories -- the history of George Washington and the attempt by modern historians to make him more relevant for today's Americans. When focus groups were asked to describe George, terms like "frumpy" and "boring" kept repeating, which shocked and horrified true Washington groupies. To counter this perception, Mount Vernan researchers commission new dioramas that would feature astonishingly lifelike manikins portraying The Father of Our County as a sexy youth, a powerful general, and a dignified president.
McClafferty then starts trading off between a traditional biography of Washington and following the creation of the figures matching each period of his life. The illustration show both scenes and souvenirs from his life and the processes used to replicate the clothes, hair, horses, and bone structure of his person at each stage. I found it easy reading, although sometimes the lifelike images seemed rather creepy. I couldn't interest either of the boys in the book though, not even the one forced to write a report on Washington. They couldn't get interested in how a frumpy green guy like Washington was replicated, which seemed like a chicken & egg problem -- the book was about how these dolls make Washington seem more vibrant and interesting, but their preconceptions held them back from finding out that they were wrong. Also, they are lazy about reading nonfiction.