Whatever your view of President Barak Obama, he has breathed new life into the iconic American wish, “When I grow up, I want to be president.” Not a blue blood or an actor or a gazillionaire, Obama has made the desire seem not so crazy.
If you want to inspire your little one, if your kid has a book report due, or if you just want to talk about some of the great men (yes, well, all men) who’ve led this country, there are loads of new books to choose from.
In simple-to-read sentences, My First Biography: Abraham Lincoln provides an overview of this great man. “A lot of people were surprised when Lincoln won. How could a man born in a log cabin be president?” It’s an art, really, to turn history into something understandable to a kindergartener. (Ages 3-5. Publisher: Scholastic Inc.)
By Barbara Kerley; Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
John and Tom are John Adams (2nd President of the United States) and Thomas Jefferson (3rd President) and Those Rebels, John & Tom humanizes this duo by comparing them, weaving together biography and history to tell their story. “John liked to talk. And talk.” “Tom was shy, and dreaded speaking in front of crowds.” Despite their differences, they had something in common: they both despised the tyrannical King George of England. With John’s powers of persuasion and Tom’s skill with a pen, the two joined forces to break America free from England. Tom works out the Declaration of Independence, trying to craft “an expression of the American mind.” While John sets out to persuade the naysayers in Congress. Bright cartoonish illustrations take up most of the page, so your young reader is not overwhelmed by text. (Ages 7-10.Publisher: Scholastic Press)
By Laurie Calkhoven; Illustrated by Rebecca Zomchek
For each president, starting with George Washington and ending with Barak Obama, I Grew Up to be President gives a two-page spread, including when and where the president was born, the name of his wife, children, political party, vice president and when and where he died. To keep things interesting, Calkhoven includes the quirky or odd. By the time George Washington was president, for instance, he had only one real tooth left. When Thomas Jefferson was president, he received an unusual gift—two grizzly bear cubs. Before Richard Nixon got involved in politics, he wanted to be an FBI agent, but his application was rejected. And Obama? He made a small change to the annual White House picnic for the members of Congress—he threw a luau, with flowers, leis, Hawaiian food and hula dancers. (Ages 7-10. Publisher: Scholastic Inc.)
By David L. Hudson Jr., JD.
If there’s something you need to know, if you’re selected for a presidential trivia game show, if you want to impress people with White House facts, you want to own this book. Why didn’t Roosevelt win the Medal of Honor? Which of Jimmy Carter’s cabinet appointees became the country’s first African American female to serve in that office? What was unusual about the 1948 election? (If you had the book, you could answer all these and more!) At 501 pages (including the index), The Handy Presidents Answer Book covers all the presidents, detailing their early life and family, early career, political offices, presidency and post presidency. It also includes basic information about the presidency, the parties, and presidential elections. Wisely, Hudson relies heavily on subtitles, which break up the text and highlight key points. (Answer to the last trivia question: The 1948 election was unusual because the newspapers and pollsters wrongly predicted Dewey would defeat Truman). (Ages 9+. Publisher: Visible Ink Press)
Nina Schuyler‘s first novel, The Painting, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill/2004), was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books for 2004 and a “Great Debut from 2004” by the Rocky Mountain News. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco and is working on a third novel.