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White House the Star of New Children’s Book October 2, 2008

Whether the winner of our upcoming Presidential election in November is named Barack Obama or John McCain, one thing is for certain: he’ll be moving into the hallowed halls of the White House come January. (I wish I could state the exact date the term starts. It was a question on a recent Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, which I occasionally watch with my fifth grader. Obviously I am way too removed from fifth grade to answer questions like that.) 

But back to the very cool point, which is naturally attached to a children’s book. An absolutely riveting new picture/coffee table book avoids all the election controversy and talk of electoral colleges and political parties and gives us a tribute to the structure that has remained constant since John Adams first brought in his bags in 1800: The White House.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, published just last month by the often innovative Candlewick Press, is a virtual who’s who among the stars of the juvenile book world, big-name authors and illustrators including Katherine Paterson, David Macaulay, Eric Carle and Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. This collection of their offerings in the form of essays, artwork, personal accounts, and other creative contributions including poetry was gathered by the National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance.

Taking us from the design stage to the lifestyles of presidential pets and children to wartime to the press room, the creators give us much more to chew on than you might even think one building, however historic, could offer. The roles of immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans are explored as well.

A companion Web site,, includes many other resources on the White House and American history.

This is a much-needed book that won’t fade away after the big election is over.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever



Beckham doing some book-bending too October 1, 2008

I guess the children’s book industry is a little like the political arena — if you have celebrity and money, apparently it gives you immediate entrée to speak all your views and feel strongly that others have reason to listen to you. Or to pick up your laptop and dash off that little children’s ditty rattling around in your head and feel it immediately print-worthy.

Or to hire a ghost writer, as in the case of soccer superstar David Beckham, whose new line of children’s novels based on his London football (as they say it in Europe) academy are aimed for the store shelves next year. I guess the purists in the juvenile book world can be at least glad there’ll be some kind of writing professional involved.

Well, he’s done the cologne thing and the clothing thing, so why not that kids’ book thing?

Usually I can’t stand a book making it to the store shelves just on the basis of the author’s name. Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis (who does seem a devoted juvenile writer given her many titles), Fergie (the real Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, not that pop singer one), even Jerry Seinfeld have sailed into the stores and dominated the market because of their names, not the quality of the books (which likely would never have see print if the manuscripts had been submitted by unknown authors).

But I haven’t seen this David Beckham series yet, so I can’t speak for the plots or the writing. I do know there’s a place for sports books in children’s literature. I’m all for children reading about what they like. Matt Christopher’s sports series (i.e., Extreme Sports Boxed Set), books by Jerry Spinelli (a wonderful writer who incorporates sports into many titles, such as Newbery medal winner Maniac Magee), Edward Bloor’s Tangerine, Michael Chabon’s Summerland: A Novel: Summerland… all are great sports-themed reads for kids. 

Apparently there’s some “how-to” attached to the shall we say “Beckham-inspired” books, which I also like. The books will reportedly feature tips, a pull-out tactics board and statistics on the game, according to an article in the U.K.’s Telegraph.

Promoting reading through superior soccer playing — we’ll just have to see how this works.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever