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Politics hits the kids’ book market September 15, 2008

Until I read about Republican Presidential nominee John McCain’s daughter Meghan’s new book about her dad — an impressive-looking hardcover published by Simon & Schuster, issued this month — I was unaware of all the politicking going on in the children’s book market.

Well, a search for reviews of Meghan’s book, aptly titled My Dad, John McCain and beautifully illustrated by Dan Andreasenon Amazon turned up a whole collection of books on the major candidates seemingly created to train the minds of the kiddies.

Simon & Schuster is also behind the publication of the grandly titled Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes. One expects a naturally adoring tone from the work of a child about her own father.  But the reviews for Barack Obama echo my sentiment that the “worshipful” tone of this book would be more suited for someone like Martin Luther King Jr., a revered figure who’s more than earned his place in history, not a political hopeful.

But there’s more: for those little girls who need a female political role model, we have Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull, another appealingly illustrated  hardcover that probably didn’t quite sell as well as Clinton supporters might have hoped earlier in the year.

Obviously these books are strategically released as campaign material. Most are quickly generated, over-fluffed political propaganda (at best — the Obama book has even been cited as an exercise in “Messianic creepiness”). But what’s their purpose? Certainly not to turn the minds of kiddie undecideds. Their cloying tone would indicate most of these titles are published so parents will snap them up for their children “to show them who Mommy and Daddy are voting for.”

I’m not saying that’s bad, I just wish there were better reads to give the kids, that juvenile books weren’t dragged into the slap-something-together election frenzy. But if I had to buy one, regardless of my political bent I’d say Meghan McCain’s book is the more genuinely informative and less icky.

If you want a new book with which to teach your kids something about politics, here’s a middle-ground choice among the kiddie election books released this year: check out If I Ran For President by Catherine Stier. At least it describes the process, instead of subjecting children to overblown praise of people whose hoped-for greatness has not been realized.

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

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