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Kids’ Election Suggestions September 20, 2008

I blogged last week about presidential election books I don’t recommend for children (because these titles are really just campaign propaganda disguised as juvenile nonfiction — and one so-called biography I’d go as far as to classify as straight fiction).

But in sorting out some Caldecott and Newbery-award winning books for the Magic Bookshelf store, I ran across two real winners — one from each of these highly respected award programs at that.

From the picture book category (for which Caldecotts are generally awarded, primarily for illustrations) comes 2001’s So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small. This very fun and approachable book for ages 7+ serves up lots of trivia and humorous anecdotes about what being elected President really does take (and not always what you think).

For example, being named James (like six former presidents) is a help (I’ll be sure to tell that to my older son, James Riley); as is being born in a humble dwelling. A log cabin, preferably, like the birthplaces of a whopping eight Presidents. (Would a triplex apartment in midtown Atlanta, circa post-WWII count as humble enough? I’m still thinking about young Riley’s chances.)

Best of all, the Presidents have come not only from all walks of life but all kinds of occupational backgrounds. I certainly never knew Andrew Johnson had been a tailor, nor that he didn’t learn to read until the ripe old age of 14.

Moving on to the Newbery winner, and a rarity here because Newberys typically are awarded for fiction, is Russell Freedman’s lovely 1988 work, Lincoln: A Photobiography.

Lincoln offers plenty of text for older elementary-age and middle school readers, but includes fascinating photos to go with the full coverage of Lincoln’s life, as well as samples of the former President’s writing. One interesting page illustrates the ravaging effects the Presidential post has on aging.

So when stocking a home or classroom library, or searching your local library catalog for books to satisfy the curiosity of young election-followers, I’d urge parents and teachers to stay clear of the newer spun-sugar offerings and go for the real meat and potatoes.

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

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