Wednesday, February 6

BOOK REPORT: president's day booklist for kids

President's Day may not rank high on your kid's list of the most looked-forward-to holidays of the year, but that's no reason to let it pass unnoticed.  President's Day is a great excuse to learn a little more about the highest office in the land and about all of the colorful characters who have held the esteemed position of President. Here are some of our favorite presidential reads with reviews from School Library Journal.

by Catherine Stier
Kindergarten-Grade 2
A simple explanation of the diverse duties of the president of the United States. Beginning with campaign speeches and posters, six children of varied racial backgrounds take turns posing as the president while providing information about the rewards and responsibilities of the position. Touching briefly on various topics including the White House, Congress, the creation of laws, the cabinet, veto power, Air Force One, and the Secret Service, Stier introduces the day-to-day activities of the commander in chief. 

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought)
by Kathleen Krull
Grade 4-8
Who says biography can't be authoritative and fun at the same time? This briskly written book presents our presidents as human beings first, figureheads second. Krull asserts that her intent was to look "at our leaders with a cool, contemporary eye, respectful but definitely nosy." She succeeds admirably. This is the perfect antidote to encyclopedia articles and standard collective biographies. Krull is factual, but her writing has pizzazz and her details bring the heads of state to life. The most coverage is given to modern presidents and the best known leaders of the past, but for almost any of the 42 men, tidbits of information contain insight.

by Hanoch Piven
Grade 2-6
Beginning with its wordplay title, this book exhibits Piven's flair for creativity and whimsy. Focusing on 17 U.S. presidents, each single- or double-page entry begins with the same phrase ("Presidents are made of…"), includes an interesting anecdote showing the human side of that individual, and presents a collage caricature made of inventive bits of realia that extend the metaphors suggested in the text. For example, George Washington is "…made of good deeds." The narrative recounts how he helped extinguish a neighborhood fire at age 67. His "portrait" has eyes made of small resin-coated American flags that reflect enough light to make them twinkle. The last spread has official portraits of all the presidents, their birth and death dates, and their years in office. 
Grade 5-9
This skillfully abridged and adapted edition of O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln (Holt, 2011) retains the format of the adult title with brief chapters written in a present tense, "you are there" style. It opens in the often-chaotic closing days of the Civil War, capturing the jubilation following Lee's surrender, the events of Lincoln's last days, and Booth's obsessive hatred of Lincoln and his conspiracy to assassinate him. It then describes the shooting and Lincoln's final hours and death, the manhunt for Booth and his allies, Booth's death, and the speedy trial and execution of his co-conspirators. This thriller-like adaptation captures the excitement of the Union victory in the Civil War and the shock and horror that quickly followed as the country learned of Lincoln's death and sought revenge on his assassins. 

Grade 4-8
What stands out in this volume is the writing, which presents history as an engaging and informative story. Hollihan opens the narrative with a focus on asthmatic “Teedie.” His efforts to strengthen his body are accompanied by a list of bodybuilding activities. Following the chronology of Roosevelt's life, a positive picture emerges of the man and his family, his rise to fame, and his impact on history. Activities include making a journal, building a diorama, “hunting” with a camera, and even making a dessert based on Roosevelt's insult that McKinley had “no more backbone than a chocolate ├ęclair.” The projects are interesting and accessible, with cautions to keep an adult nearby when necessary. Numerous black-and-white photos, insets, political cartoons, and illustrations break the text into manageable and interesting bits.

Image from pivenworld.com
Contributed by Danyelle, Fairmont Private Schools

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