59 pages 1 hour read

Elvira Woodruff

George Washington's Socks

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1991

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Summary and Study Guide


George Washington’s Socks is a 1991 children’s novel by American writer Elvira Woodruff. Combining aspects of historical fiction with children’s fantasy, George Washington’s Socks is the first installment of Woodruff’s Time Travel Adventures series. Its primary audience is middle grade readers aged 8 to 11. Additionally, teachers of literature and history share the book with classes at a variety of grade levels.

Plot Summary

Ten-year-old Matt Carlton can’t wait to get to the inaugural meeting and campout of his adventure club, established with friends Tony, Q, and Hooter (formally, Brian Melrose). The boys plan to read about exciting events in Great Adventures in History. Matt tries hiding his peas in the sugar bowl so he can leave the dinner table quickly; this plot backfires when little sister, Katie, sees. To avoid trouble, Matt invites Katie along on the campout. Katie, thrilled with the invitation, forgets the peas.

Matt, Katie, Hooter, Tony, and Q gather in Tony’s backyard. Matt makes Katie stay in the tent while he reads about George Washington’s army crossing the Delaware River just before an attack on Hessian mercenaries at Trenton during the Revolutionary War. Katie asks when their adventure will begin, which inspires Matt to propose a hike to the lake. On the way, Tony tells of mysterious disappearances that have occurred there.

At the lake, Matt and his friends see Katie about to enter an empty rowboat. They run to stop her but feel compelled to enter the boat instead. Suddenly, chunks of ice hit the boat; the air feels bitterly cold. Katie falls over the rowboat’s edge in the confusion. When men in a second boat save Katie, Matt and his friends recognize the tall figure among them as General George Washington. They realize that they are now in the past; it’s 1775, on the cold Christmas night when General Washington’s bedraggled army crossed the Delaware and marched nine miles to Trenton.

Matt inadvertently separates from his friends. A captain forces him to take up arms and march with the regiment. Matt tries to keep warm and calm. He meets Israel Gates, a young soldier who promises to look out for him. Soon, though, Israel weakens with infection and illness and cannot march any longer. The army leaves them, and Matt tries to tend to Israel. When Matt awakens in the morning, Israel is dead.

Local patriot Mr. Hornbee takes Matt to his farm for rest and food. When Matt attempts to tell him the truth, Mrs. Hornbee says Matt endangers them with their Loyalist neighbors. Mr. Hornbee tells Matt to ride his mule Blackjack to the river and wishes Matt good luck.

Alone now except for Blackjack, Matt wonders how he will regroup with the others and, as he feels responsible for getting them all into this situation, find a way back home. Suddenly, two Native American boys stop him on the path. Tony and Hooter are with them, and the three friends happily reunite.

Tony and Hooter tell Matt that Hessians captured Q and Katie. Mercenaries hired by Britain, the Hessians are infamously cruel, strong soldiers. Matt gathers his courage and plans a rescue. He first barters with the Native Americans for their help in finding the Hessians; then he, Tony, and Q try to steal the Hessians’ weapons so that Q and Katie can escape.

The plan to get the weapons fails, and the Hessians take Tony, Matt, and Hooter prisoner. Matt witnesses the charitable and heroic side of one Hessian, Gustav, when Gustav saves Katie’s life. Just as they realize that not all enemy soldiers are bad people, rebel troops shoot and kill Gustav.

Together, the five children consider how they might get home. Matt bolsters the others with hope despite their long odds, inspired both by how much they’ve already experienced and by the brave example of General Washington and his men. Katie insists she knows something helpful; when Matt finally acknowledges her, she reveals the location of the rowboat. The boys realize that an inscription, “Emit Levart,” is “time travel” backwards just before the boat magically transport them home.

That evening at dinner, knowing nothing of the truth, Matt’s parents praise his maturity in taking responsibility for Katie at the campout. Matt’s father asks for the sugar bowl, where presumably Matt’s peas are still hidden from the night before.