Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hail to These Books!

Happy Presidents' Day everyone! Here are some of my favorite books on Washington, Lincoln, and all...

So You Want to Be President? is absolutely phenomenal! Judith St. George cleverly presents scads of presidential trivia accompanied by David Small's outstanding and hilarious caricatures of all 43 (42 really, since we had Grover Cleveland twice!) presidents. In fact, Small's illustrations were so good that this book received the Caldecott Medal in 2000. What I love so much about this book is that it's full of fascinating information, and absolutely hysterical at the same time (which makes it popular with both children and adults). We learn everything about our presidents from their children and pets to their musical and athletic talents to their idiosyncrasies and foibles in the office. We hear about John Quincy Adams skinny-dipping in the Potomac River and William Howard Taft bathing in his specially-made extra large bathtub. We learn the pros and cons of being the commander in chief. For example: "Another good thing about being President is that the President has a swimming pool, bowling alley, and movie theater. The President never has to take out the garbage. The President doesn't have to eat yucky vegetables. As a boy, George H. W. Bush had to eat broccoli. When George H. W. Bush grew up, he became President. That was the end of the broccoli!" Well, I've gone on long enough! Read this book! You will laugh out loud!

Lincoln: A photobiography by Russell Freedman is a fabulous read. This Newberry Medal winner is intended for an older audience--I'd say 6th grade and up, and is a really great book for adults. Here are some things I love about this biography: it is comprehensive yet succinct, it is organized in a very reader-friendly way, and it helped me learn many things about President Lincoln that I'd never known before. For example, did you know that he didn't like to be called Abe? And did you know that he struggled with depression for much of his life? The photographs are the icing on the cake. This is an excellent biography of one of our most beloved American Presidents--read it!

A Picture Book of George Washington is one of David A. Adler's (with John and Alexandra Wallner as illustrators in this case) many picture book biographies. They are all excellent. He packs in a lot of content and nice detail, while keeping it simple and enjoyable for a young child (around 3rd grade and up). In fact, Adler does a lot of non-fiction for children, mostly historical. His books are fun to read and a very informative.

Our Country's Presidents by Ann Bausum is a fabulous resource. As a rule, you can count on anything published by National Geographic to be well done, and this is no exception. Two features I particularly love: 1) Besides the several pages of informative text about each president, there is a section of quick facts about each one (including nickname, political party, number of terms, etc.). 2) In typical National Geographic fashion, the book is full of wonderful photographs. I think this would make a great "coffee table" book that would interest the children (about 5th grade and up) in the family as much as the adults.

Enjoy the holiday and make some time to read!

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