If You Want a Friend in Washington by Erin McGill (9780593122693)
Based on the famous quote from President Truman, this nonfiction picture book explores the many different pets that presidents have had over the years. The book begins with dogs and cats, though some cats were of the more exotic type like tiger cubs! Horses were also popular, but barnyard pets didn’t stop there with some presidents having goats, sheep, roosters and cows, including Miss Wayne who grazed on the White House lawn and had her milk stolen. The pets just kept getting larger though with bear cubs, elephants, hippos, a wallaby and alligators! Some presidents had birds, though Jackson’s parrot swore a lot. Some had quite small pets like guinea pigs or even silkworms. Almost all presidents had some sort of pet, though Jackson found his friendly mice waiting for him while he faced impeachment.
Fast-paced and funny, this picture book is a wry look at presidential pets. The book first groups types of pets together then offers interesting anecdotes about a few of the pets in that grouping. Readers get the tales of Lincoln’s, FDR’s, George H.W. Bush’s, Obama’s and Truman’s dogs, for example. The stories throughout the book celebrate the president’s connection to these animals and how they found solace in their time together.
The art is marvelously silly, using cut paper drawings against pops of color or line drawings on white backgrounds. The spread of all of the dogs alone is an impressive two pages of quite small pooches, each labeled with their name. The illustrations have a peppy merriness to them that invites readers in and sets a jolly tone.
Humorous and historical, this glimpse of president’s best friend is a treat. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
The Next President by Kate Messner, illustrated by Adam Rex (9781452174884)
This remarkable book takes presidential history and makes it both an exploration throughout time as well as an invitation to see oneself as a potential president. The book begins with George Washington as president and points out that when he was president there were nine future presidents alive with four of them already working at the capital with Washington. Readers will see presidents as children, teens and adults. They will watch them progress to being president, seeing the similarities and differences among the men who have been president. Yet most important of all is that they themselves might just be the future president who is currently alive.
Messner’s text is marvelous. It appears in bubbles that swirl through the illustrations or short paragraphs, making it bite-sized and inviting for young readers. Moving from one to the next, moves readers to a new president. Each one has interesting facts shared about them as well as glimpses of several of them over the course of their lives before they became president.
Rex’s illustrations are great. He creates recognizable images of past and present presidents as well as younger versions of them that are clearly still them. It’s a wonderful way to view presidents as human and to invite all children to see their own potential to lead.
Inviting, interesting and invigorating. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.
Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson
Released January 26, 2016.
Audacity Jones is the only orphan at Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls. She’s also the only student there who knows that the Punishment Room is actually a lovely library, so she is very well read. When Commodore Crutchfield visits the school and asks for a girl to take on a journey, Audie is up for the challenge. But all is not what it seems with the reason for the travel and Audie finds herself in Washington, DC with the distracted Commodore and his shifty chauffeur. As this historical novel unfurls, Audie will need to call on all of the friends she has made in her adventure to foil a plot of presidential proportions!
This historical novel takes place in 1910 when President Taft was in office and features Taft, Mrs. Taft and their son. Larson weaves real history into her novel, cleverly combining the two into a truly engaging read. The story of a poor girl brought into luxury and then used as a potential pawn in a heist is entirely engrossing. Larson’s plotting is noteworthy, allowing her merry chases and close calls but also offering enough space to give historical details that make the setting clear and important.
I fell hard for Audacity. She’s exactly the sort of girl protagonist that is engaging to read and she will remind readers of other great girl protagonists who also love books and adventures alike. She takes her place by other literary orphans who capture your heart with their spirit and determination.
A delight of a novel, this is the first in a new series from the Newbery-Honor winning author. I can’t wait to see what Audie gets up to next! Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.
One Today by Richard Blanco, illustrated by Dav Pilkey (InfoSoup)
This picture book version of the inaugural poem for President Obama’s second term is a beautiful example of how poetry can reach young and old alike. Blanco’s poem stretches across the country, speaking to the diversity of our country, the universal things that bind us together, and the aspirations that we all hold dear. Faith, earth, sky, moon and more form a foundation for us all to relate to. This poem uses imagery that children will understand but also makes it bigger and larger and asks readers to see our country as a whole. Beautiful.
Blanco’s language is simple. He writes of “pencil-yellow school buses” and “the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs.” He ties our every day experiences to larger efforts, to living with a dream, hearing symphonies in the city sounds, giving thanks, feeling praise. Just like with all the best poetry, it begins simple and then reaches up and beyond to the vision that inspires.
Pilkey’s illustrations are lush and lovely. Filled with deep colors, they show diverse people walking the same city streets, feeling the same things, worshiping in their own ways, and being one united country despite our differences. Each page has a young girl and boy witnessing together, seeing how united we can be if we try.
A poem that calls us to be better than we are now by being united and seeing the small things in life that are meaningful to us all. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from library copy.
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
The author of Looking at Lincoln takes on Thomas Jefferson in her newest picture book biography. The focus in this biography is on the wide range of Jefferson’s interests and how he truly was a Renaissance man. Monticello, the house Jefferson designed and built, serves as a fine background to his interests since the home itself was ever changing and also housed many of his interests as well. The book looks at fascinating small details like the design of Jefferson’s bed, the extensive vegetable gardens, and his hours spent practicing music. After fully exploring Jefferson personally, the book turns to the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson becoming the third President of the United States. Then the book also explores the fact that Jefferson had slaves and fathered children with one of them, Sally Henning. This is a complex and thorough look at a man who was brilliant in so many ways but troubled as well.
Kalman writes biographies with her own opinions right on the page. So when she addresses the slave issue, she speaks of “our hearts are broken” and then speaks to how tragic it is that Jefferson’s children who could pass as white had to hide who they really were. This adds a personality to the book, making it far richer than simple facts would. It will assure young readers that it is good for them to have opinions about history and to express them too.
As always, it is Kalman’s art that sets this book apart. Her illustrations range from more serious portraits of the historical figures to eye-popping bright colors in the vegetable gardens where paths are pink next to the bright green of the grass. It is all entirely rich and joyful.
Another dynamic and unique biography from Kalman, this book belongs in every public library serving children. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.