What does it say that the nature and quality of our national political debate should be so baldly captured in a book for 4-year-olds?
Newcomer Clanton's candidates are a donkey and an elephant, economically if emotively drawn on fields of blue and red. Yes, we know who these characters are, even more so when they start to address the reader, aka the potential voter. First come the soft sell, the loopy promises and idle boasts—"Do you like CANDY?" "I'm a SUPER CUTE elephant!"—then come the ad hominem attacks: "Well, you certainly do, you big, STINKY pooper scooper," or, drawing from Spiro Agnew's playbook, "belching beast of burden." Finally, they sling enough mud that the electorate takes its business elsewhere. It is a painful point well made, that these candidates are laughable when not plain embarrassing. But even if the name-calling has a measure of low humor at first, it soon pales—something that Clanton's book threatens to do before its neat twist—in direct proportion to its sustenance on either the entertainment or intellectual front, as any 4-year-old will tell you. Read it with Eileen Christelow's splendid Vote! (2003) if you want that 4-year-old to actually learn anything, though.
An ever-timely message, told in (two) primary colors. (Picture book. 4-8)