Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So You Want to Be President

St. George, Judith. 2000. So You Want to Be President. Ill. by David Small. New York: Philomel Books. ISBN 0399234071

Plot Summary:
So You Want to Be President is a collection of facts about our nation's presidents. Some of the facts are well-known - Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin; some are not - Andrew Johnson couldn't read until he was fourteen. The book also offers a glimpse into the duties of the president and shows the great variety and humanity in the men who have inhabited the White House.

Critical Analysis:
So You Want to Be President is chock full of the kind of fun facts that will interest young readers. Heights, weights, dancing ability, speeding tickets and duels are all covered. The facts are presented in a way that engages the reader and brings history to his level. (e.g. "Do you have pesky brothers and sisters? Every one of our Presidents did.")

The front and end papers are decorated with caricatures of the presidents, and much of the bibliographic information is located at the end of the book. This gives the reader the opportunity to enter directly into the fun, without paging through the copyright and publishing information.

The substantial text is in a smaller typeface which leaves plenty of room for busy illustrations, making use of positive space. The Presidents are drawn in caricature style, and are shown in both formal and embarrassing situations. Double-page spreads are used frequently to show a humorous situation or to depict many Presidents in the same setting. Readers will likely want to go through this book again and again, just to be sure that they haven't missed anything in these cartoon-style illustrations.

The only negative to this book, is that it may be passed over by older readers who will view the cover and assume that it's not meant for the independent reader. In truth, this book's engaging facts and illustrations should be able to satisfy readers as old as fifth or sixth grade.

Review Excerpts:
In the July/August 2000, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Kate McDowell wrote, "While accounts of particular presidents abound, rarely are they as entertaining as this collective biography of chief executives."

Connections:
This book makes a great introduction to Presidential biographies. Children's interest in lesser known presidents may be piqued by the little-known facts.

Follow up a reading of this book with a reader's theater performance of "The Field Trip to Remember," http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/reading/ReadersTheater/ReadersTheater016.shtml or "Ask the Presidents," http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/reading/ReadersTheater/ReadersTheater007.shtml

Visit the official White House site for kids, http://www.whitehouse.gov/kids/

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